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.

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