Yuko Nasu

Posted: January 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , , | No Comments »

To draw someone we do not know, who might be someone special is my interest
Yuko Nasu


Imaginary Portrait Series, 2006, oil on paper, 18 pieces (50 x 40 cm each). Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

Born in Hiroshima, Japan.
Lives and works in London.

She studied visual design at Kyoto City University of Art until 1997. She used to work as a graphic designer but soon realised that she wanted to do more physical work than being in front of a computer all day long.
She eventually relocated to London in 2005 to study fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
Yuko Nasu makes portraits. It includes mostly oil painting but sometimes it can also be water colour.
She uses wild brushstrokes and unique colour combinations work to create a camouflage that reveals its subject. Her technique and its effects may remind Edward Munch’s The Scream where the brushstrokes are sweeping and becoming broader. The features of the face are almost removed, what is left is a trace of a mouth or an eye. We cannot say the works look ‘unfinished‘ though, it is rather that Yuko sees only the essential. We are not quite sure if some erasing is in process.
She had her first UK solo show Imaginary Portraits at Zizi Gallery in 2007. Last year she gained some media attention with a portrait of Kate Moss (KM2), although she stated to be ‘unfamiliar with the cultural references or celebrities in contemporary British media stories‘.
She was exhibiting at Art Projects during the last London Art Fair (13-17 January 2010).


Imaginary Portrait Series, KM2, 2009, oil on paper, 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

I was in London some time ago and I met Yuko on this occasion. The following discussion took place at her studio.

Tell me about yourself
I graduated in visual design at University. I was making posters, advertisements etc. Then I got a job at a TV game company in Japan, I was a 3D, computer graphic designer. I worked there during five years, but I was really bored, working with computers and digital things you know. I was thinking, ‘I would like to do something different, and use my hands to produce something more organic‘. So I quitted the company and I decided to come to the UK. I applied to Saint Martins College. I managed to get in and I studied for one year. Then I took a one-year class at Chelsea College of Art and Design as an international postgraduate. I finished in 2007 and I became an independent artist.

When did you start being interested in painting?
I already liked painting when I was a kid but I was not really serious about it, it was just for fun. I really started to think about painting when I was working for the TV game company. From that time I got interested in arts in general.

What inspires you?
It depends. Basically all that is energetic: it can be music for instance.

How long does it take for you to make one painting?
Sometimes it takes me a month or even more. But I can also make one painting in about fifteen minutes or less. I would say it depends on if I’m lucky or not!

Do you sometimes get back to your work to modify something -a detail?
Once it is done, I do not get back to it. Otherwise I could ruin the painting.


Imaginary Portrait Series, Y, 2007, oil on paper, 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

What is a typical day of work?
I have a part time job, three days a week, so I am able to dedicate to my work on the evening sometimes. I have a studio so I spend basically the whole day painting when I am not working. I would come in the morning and I would stay until 8:00 PM. Then I go back home. But there is no rule.

What are your projects?
I just exhibited at London Art Fair. Right now I would like to experiment something different, I have been painting the same way for quite some time. I think it is time for a change. For the past year I have been painting in a different way, more abstract. It does not have a title yet.

How important is art in your life?
We cannot live without art, can we? (laughs).
More seriously I am happy when I am painting.

Could you review your work in a critical way?
That is a difficult question… Looking at my work in an objective way is something I am not sure to be able of doing. Maybe I would say my work is getting more sophisticated. And at the same time it is loosing some primitive expression I suppose. As I am becoming better at painting, I have to be cautious not to loose the primitive energy. Otherwise my work could become boring.


1108b, 2009, oil on paper. Courtesy of Yuko Nasu

What is your dream?
I would like to retire in Hawaii when I turn sixty or seventy! Why not?
More seriously, my current dream would be to become a successful artist.

Did you fulfill your childhood dreams?
Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. I found myself being fascinated with people working in politics or business, all the executive people you know. But I doubt I will fulfill that dream and I like this idea somehow. I prefer to be a painter, working with colours and canvases.

What do you see for yourself in ten years?
I have no idea. I cannot tell exactly what I will be doing in ten years. I wish I could stay in London or at least in Europe. Japanese and European cultures are totally different. There are so many ways of thinking here. But I think I will eventually go back to Japan someday.

What epitaph on your grave?
Rest In Peace? (laughs). We do not have this tradition in Japan. There are no inscription on the grave. We keep ashes in graves, in the past we buried dead bodies but nowadays we do not. I do not want to have my grave and I want my ashes to be thrown in the air or in the ocean. I wanna be nothing after death. It might be a sad thing to my parents because keeping ashes and having a grave is a traditional way for any family in Japan.



Shelf at Yuko’s studio. Picture by the author.

Christian Boltanski

Posted: January 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: art sur canapé: exhibition reviews | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Mardi 12 janvier, environ 20 heures. Vernissage de Personnes, le projet réalisé par Christian Boltanski pour MONUMENTA. Une foule assez chic va et vient devant l’entrée du Grand Palais. Les uns arrivent au vernissage, les autres en sortent, téléphone ou cigarette à la main. Une fois le carton d’invitation remis et les contrôles passés, c’est un mur de tiroirs qui nous fait face, imposant. Il empêche de voir l’intérieur de la nef et oblige le spectateur à le contourner par un côté ou par un autre. A l’intérieur, un vaste champ de vêtements. Ils sont posés à même le sol, organisés par petites sections carrées, qui rythment la déambulation du visiteur.

Picture 2
Plus loin, c’est un gigantesque tas de vêtements qui attire l’attention. Il est surmonté d’un bras mécanique qui pioche de temps à autre une poignée d’effets et les relâche aussitôt sur le tas. Le spectacle est saisissant.
On se sent ridiculement minuscule. C’est un fait, la nef du Grand Palais impressionne par ses dimensions :
longueur 200 m, largeur 50 m et 100 m, hauteur 35 m et 45 m sous le dôme, pour une superficie de 13 500 m2.
Au dehors, le froid est glacial. Pourtant Boltanski n’a pas souhaité chauffer l’endroit. “Cette installation est conçue pour produire un puissant sentiment d’oppression. Il s’agit d’une expérience dure et je suis convaincu que les gens éprouveront un soulagement en sortant.”

Picture 1
Si l’installation a été pensée pour se déployer principalement sur le sol, à l’horizontale donc, tout l’espace en revanche résonne de manière lancinante au son d’enregistrements de battements de coeur.
Ce bruit fait écho à un projet initié à la Maison Rouge en 2008, Les Archives du cœur. On y accède en empruntant un petit couloir, à l’écart de la nef. Les visiteurs sont invités à enregistrer le son des battements de leur cœur et d’en faire don à l’artiste. L’ensemble sera réuni dans une sonothèque sur l’île de Teshima, située dans la Mer Intérieure du Japon et mise à la disposition de Boltanski par un mécène.
Chaque année pour MONUMENTA, un artiste de renommée internationale imagine un projet original de grande envergure pour la nef du Gand Palais. Anselm Kiefer s’était prêté à l’exercice en 2007, puis ce fut le tour de Richard Serra l’année suivante.

Le Grand Palais
Conçu à l’occasion de l’Exposition Universelle de 1900 par Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas et Charles Girault, le Grand Palais est un fleuron de l’Art Nouveau. Cet édifice monumental se caractérise par une architecture alliant la pierre, l’acier et le verre.

Personnes, Grand Palais, du 13/01 au 21/02/2010
A l’initiative du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication et de la Délégation aux Arts Plastiques. Une exposition coproduite par le Centre National des Arts Plastiques, le Grand Palais et la Réunion des Musées Nationaux.

site de MONUMENTA :


Benjamin Sabatier

Posted: January 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Benjamin Sabatier’s recent show at the Point Ephémère, Paris was titled Manifeste.
You could see the exhibition space from the outside through a large window. White placards with messages were displayed against one of the walls. These messages were collected in various public toilets in the city and the recording was the ceaseless flow of a flush.
The placards are usually used in the public sphere to express demands during protests; for the show they recorded a series of anonymous messages left in an intimate place. Benjamin Sabatier refers to the placards as screens, showing some odd collective word with a sense of humour.

Manifeste, exhibition view at the Point Ephémère, from 13 November to 08 December 2009

Benjamin Sabatier in conversation with Adeline Wessang

I graduated from Rennes 2 University with a postgraduate certificate and an aggregation in Arts, which also allows me to be a teacher. I’m teaching at La Sorbonne and I’m also involved with the CERAP (center of studies and research in Arts).

I want my work to be accessible, it is very important. It is part of what I call the ‘aesthetics of the viewer’. When confronted to my work, the viewer is not in virgin territory: he sees things he knows about because he sees them regularly but this time they are displayed in unusual positions and combinations.
To me, art is a transcription of the real, a way of looking at the world around us. Indeed art allows to access the real in an unusual way. The beginning point does exist concretely: materials, objects or processes that everyone is supposed to know. Then they are used in a different way in order to show some specific aspects and to include the viewer as one of the modalities for the work.
The fact that my work is usually ‘reproducible’ is also a ‘way of doing’, not far from what we call ‘Do It Yourself’.
Besides, a part of my work fully includes reproducibility and is displayed in the form of kits. It seems usually ‘reproducible’ because you can easily imitate the pieces.

7728Rondin Les 3 Suisses II, 2004
mail order catalogue and half log, 25 cm height, 41,7 cm diameter
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

The viewer can say ‘I could do it myself’, and he is right.
DIY means ‘Faîtes-le vous-même’ in French and I think that it is not only some activity you do on Sundays. It is a true way of thinking, referring to hippies’ utopiae from the 1960s. All the counter culture from the next decades comes from that. The French translation for DIY Faîtes-le-vous-même is more appropriate than bricolage or système D.
It is also a way of doing hand made things, finding again some autonomy and being more manual. I am referring to the Whole Earth catalog (Access to tools), first released in 1968. It was the first mail-order catalogue, written by Stewart Brand and it has quickly become the counter culture bible in the US.
The book is not only a catalogue of tools, it is also filled with visionary ideas and articles about Earth protection, bio farming, self-sufficiency, self-education, cooperation…
DIY philosophy is in progress. Not only it is a way of reducing costs but it is also an alternative to mass production. It is no accident that it is currently regaining across the Atlantic. It is supposed to be some kind of reaction to consumer society excesses and its dangerous effects on the planet. Moreover, it is a survival strategy when there is an economical crisis.

I was looking for something which could involve the audience in the making. It was also a way of delegating to the audience some part of the work (DIY again). First I created a decorative pictorial pattern with pins stuck into the wall. Then I asked myself how I could distribute this work created onto a specific location. I ended up with a kit. This reproduction system quickly interested me more than the product itself. I was inspired by a firm like IKEA. I produced multilingual guides, I designed tools to make the assembling easier. Each object is edited in three copies. Two copies: the work and its reproduction. From three copies, I would say it is about editing with the concept of a product.
The kit questions about the work status as a merchandise, as well as the current functioning of consumption and the marketing strategies.

Installation de présentation du Kit
pins, cardboard box, instructions book, pattern and tools
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

Then I designed a logo: IBK (International Benjamin’s Kit). The name came to me naturally, with reference to IKEA and to Yves Klein’s IKB (International Klein Blue). He is to me one of the first artists who has thought about the market value in a relevant way. Let’s remember his show at the Apollinaire gallery, Milan in 1957. Eleven blue Monochrome were displayed, all the same size but at different selling prices. Klein thought the paintings were not exactly the same because they were perceived in a different way by the audience. The price is part of the work.
Of course IBK is also a reference to Walter Benjamin, whose name is similar to my first name.
IBK is more than a brand, it is a concept, a kind of vision which is related to DIY in my opinion.
IBK has also became a structure which produces things and allows to collaborate with people on different projects.

For the past years I have been called an artiste entrepreneur. It is true that I do have my say on economy and business. But I am not an entrepreneur per say, such as famous artists like Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami. IBK is not a firm, socially or economically speaking. It is more of a concept, a work of art in itself. But as IBK has some of the characteristics of a firm, I guess it is easier to say I am an entrepreneur.
I do not intend to pretend to be one (it has been done previously a lot by others) and I do not want to mimic current economic structures. I am not interested in mimesis or copy. I would also like to add that I am not attracted to this world, I am rather interested in the fact that it cannot be ignored because it is the main structure for individuals in current society.

The relationship to the body is important in my work. I am also interested in the relationship with materials. This confrontation or association leads to produce shapes. Learning something is what I am looking for and I could say that I am challenging myself each time I am starting a project. I feel like I always gain some knowledge, which can be practical but more often critical. Then again DIY is not far.  Carrying rocks, piling Scotch-tapes, sticking nails, drawing pins, sharpening pencils… All my projects have repetitive gestures and you will not be surprised to learn that performance art is special to me.

The End, DIY 1388, 2008
hammer, nails, pattern, instructions book and cardboard box, 88 x 162 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

In 2008 I performed at the MAK, Vienna. It was called SUPERPARTYCYCLES and I had a free hand. I wanted to turn this several-stages old bunker into some place for partying. On the last floor in an empty room I put 80kg of pallet (my own weight) covered with sheets of coloured paper. I was continually tearing up the sheets to make confetti. After a while, a few people in the audience imitated me by tearing up the paper sheets. The performance was working as long as more and more people were participating. The destructive gesture towards some manufactured material changed the performance into a party.
Long before the performance 35 Heures de travail (2002) at the Palais de Tokyo (I was entirely sharpening pencils manually during 35 hours), I produced some works involving sharpened pencils. Each one was then stored into a plastic bag mentioning the brand of the pencil. I put the bags at the supermarket so the consumer could buy his pencil already sharpened! That was the whole idea. The product was somehow already a waste in that context. The consumer became a viewer and gained some critical opinion towards mass consumption.
I dropped about fifty of these bags in various supermarkets.
I never saw someone actually staring at my bags, I never waited to see people’s reactions… But it does not matter. This project was indeed my first real performance…
I am interested in putting objects or products back in some different kind of consumption cycle or giving these things a second life. I’m thinking of Paul Auster’s In The Country of Last Things (1989) which French title is Le Voyage d’Anna Blume. Main characters are scavengers who survive by collecting garbage in a city that has collapsed into chaos and disorder. I was more interested in the title, referring to Kurt Schwitters’ An Anna Blume (1919), his book of poems and collages. This was the starting point for my thoughts on merchandise and packaging, further extended with kits.

I collected squashed things in the street (Etalage, 2004). These flattened objects seemed to be images of merchandise to me.
They were not objects per say anymore, as they had lost their shape and their use at the same time. They had become two dimensional pictures, colored spots on the ground. I placed them into plaster blocks to make them look ‘marketable’ like bricks or boxes. Then I displayed them stacked on pallets as if they were average goods.
Later I purchased a large amount of objects in blister packaging. Blister is a rounded, bulging, usually transparent structure for display and protection of packaged products. I use blisters as molds and I pour cement inside. I did an Action Man series. It is all about packaging, box, carriage and merchandising the world and Art in general.

7691Action man I, 2007
Blisters series, cement, 30 x 22,5 x 10 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

Recycling materials is interesting. A few years ago I used to keep mail order catalogues such as La Redoute or 3 Suisses for recycling. The reason I was collecting them was mainly because they don’t last. Plus I like when the materials are available in a large amount easily.
Sheets of the catalogues were stored in ice cubes boxes, each sheet in one single compartment. I was trying to focus on short-term preservation by reproducing seasonal advertising commonly used for these mail order catalogues: Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer. In the end, I think that the whole idea was also referring to the Whole Earth Catalog.

Bacs 019, 2005
Bacs series, ice cubes boxes, paper and wood, 95 x 95 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

Yes indeed packaging is recurring in my work: bags, blisters, kits…
In contemporary art history the box cannot be ignored. I am thinking of Duchamp’s Boîte en Valise, Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, Manzoni’s used cans, Judd, Arman, Raynaud… It would be good to write a book on the subject.
I am still working on packaging. The box which protects and informs on its content at the same time, must be practical and a promotional material.
Right now I am more interested in its usage, that is to say carriage and stocking.
I fixed climbing grips to rocks (Prises, 2008). These colored grips usually allow the body to climb on the wall. The relationship to the body is somehow perverted since in that case, the grips allow to carry the object. I wanted to add some sort of ergonomics to it.
In a way, this project extends a part of work of art history which is said to have influenced the shape of the work of art. Take donkey painting for instance, it allowed paintings to be spread widely. It also demonstrated the connections between work of art and merchandise.

Typical day?
I spend some time on my computer, mainly sending emails, getting informed. The network matters. I have been in touch with artists from abroad. I can also work on projects from a distance, sending patterns by email allowing the work to be done without me. I like this circulation linked with ubiquity.
I do a lot of sketches. I put up them on a notice board in my studio, along with notes. Sometimes I can give up on some ideas then I will go back and make them happen. I do not work on a project if its achievement is not possible.
In the end I would say that I always focus on gathering and stocking.

Tableau n.3, 2008
felt-tip, pencil, pinned paper and wood, 150 x 150 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont

I am currently working on a performance which will take place at Centre George Pompidou in February 2010.
I am also supposed to exhibit at Delicatessy gallery in Cracovia, Poland. Delicatessy refers to food shops, such as butcher shops. So the name has to do with merchandise and it is really interesting to me.
Moreover, I am currently focusing on projects involving brick as main material. Brick  does have attractive features: it is a module, made to fit in man’s hand, you can handle it easily for carrying. So we go back on the carriage thing, and the relationship with the body (previously discussed) and more specifically with the hand. In conclusion I would like to quote the essay written by art historian Henri Focillon L’Eloge de la Main (1934).

This interview has taken place in Benjamin’s studio on November 2009.

Benjamin Sabatier, born 1977.
Lives and works in Paris.


Jérôme de Noirmont art gallery, Paris:

FRAGILE, Ville d’Issoire edition, 2008
S.A.V., Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont edition, 2005 (sold out)
Peinture en Kit, Noirmont Prospect edition, 2003 (sold out)

IBK’s Scotch Tower V, 2007
Scotch-tape rolls, concrete and PVC, 241.5 x 17 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont