Predominantly known as a painter, Maeve Doyle, Artistic Director at Maddox, describes Yuki Aruga’s evocative works as “transporting the viewer through a portal of surrealism while affirming nature’s strength and power”. Half British, half Japanese, Yuki’s mixed-race identity is a constant source of inspiration, with her paintings displaying clear East Asian influences with their richness, subtlety and delicacy.
As she prepares for her show with Maddox, we spoke to Yuki to discover what feeds her practice and shapes her aesthetic.
YUKI ARUGA: I am always photographing and documenting flowers, colours, textures and things that catch my eye because they are beautiful. The process of creating a painting begins by drawing very small, rough thumbnails of the compositions I am visualising. Next, I start to make collages using the photographs, cutting bits of them away to recreate the shapes that are in my head.
I’m a slow painter – that meditative element is very important to me. My paintings are very intricate, and I keep zooming in to add more and more layers of detail. It’s not unusual for me to work on a painting for months on end.
YA: When I was studying for my MA, I started exploring mixed-race theory and analysing the details that have unintentionally crept into my work. According to the theory, my identity is a sliding scale, so one day I may feel more Japanese, the next more British. I quickly came to see that the way I suspend my subject matter in a dark void – this negative space, known as ma in Japanese – reflects the feeling I often have of never quite being from one place or another.
YA: Drawing is my first language and has been my escape from most things throughout my life. Aged four or five, I was invited by my teacher, Mrs O’Toole, to join an adult’s painting course at her house. Even then, I felt like an old person stuck in a small person’s body. Drawing was my way of getting lost in my own world, and that world has just got bigger and bigger.
YA: At the heart of the exhibition is a series of artworks that capture fleeting moments in time when a rose blooms and quickly fades. The roses are a metaphor for the ongoing cycle of life, which is ever-present in my work.
YA: I’m fascinated by all things cyclical, circular, spherical and orbital in nature; and by extension, the seasonal, the repetitive and continual. These cycles of death and rebirth, are present in our everyday lives - not just in nature and not just in its literal form.
Lately I have been thinking about the repetitive, cyclical patterns in my own life, and how all these endings and beginnings are something universally understood and shared; all things seem circular when you start to look more deeply.