One to watch since joining Maddox more than a year ago, Yuki Aruga’s hotly anticipated debut solo show opens tomorrow at our flagship gallery in Mayfair. The culmination of more than a year of preparation by the artist, join Yuki on a journey through seven spellbinding artworks to discover the motivations and messages behind her sublime and surreal still-lifes.
Art is a sanctuary and solace for Yuki, who uses her practice as a means of piecing together her thoughts and processing her experiences. Painstakingly painted in oils, the circular tondo and title piece in the exhibition, Without End, depicts roses at the end of bloom – a recurring theme in Yuki’s work. A rumination on the cycle of birth, death and decay, the void in the background creates a window into a dark, endless place. “The works are a distant and close-up view of my thoughts and feelings around the concepts of time, nature, human connection, loss and longing,” says Yuki.
One of three sculptures on display, Curlicue I depicts a golden snake writhing around a pyramid of white roses, handcrafted by the artist in polymer clay. Yuki has always been interested in sculpture as a way of exploring shape and volume and chose to contain the tumbling roses within a bell jar. Part museum specimen, part cabinet of curiosity, Yuki learned the traditional technique of oil gilding when she was invited to join the Painter Stainers’ Decorative Surfaces Fellowship. “The way in which the gold moves is mesmerising,” she says. “If you blow in the centre of it, it ripples like water, creating a pool of gold.”
Before Yuki begins painting, she creates a study – a fine art print of the collage she intends to paint. Night Deepens Study gives an insight into Yuki’s process and reveals how she layers photographs of her natural subjects to create her compositions – here, the wing of an American Blue Jay beneath a cluster of pink roses. “The study is also an opportunity for me to paint over some of the details on the print to test out the colours I will use in my final work,” Yuki explains.
Named after the Wordsworth poem of the same name, in Fed by the Sun, the artist recreates the underside of a canary’s wing with incredible realism. Yuki assisted a taxidermist while she was studying for her degree in fine art painting, which sparked her ongoing interest in the passage of time. “Both the wings and the fading roses in my paintings are an observation on the cycle of life and what it means to be alive, as well as a way of indefinitely preserving these fleeting moments in time,” she explains.
The negative space in the circular painting Satellite reveals the level of thought and detail that goes into creating the backdrops for Yuki’s still-lifes. Here, the roses float above a deep blue void, with a distant sphere depicted within a circle, denoting the orbit of a planet – a symbol that features often in Yuki’s paintings. “It’s so easy for us to get stuck in the monotony of the everyday and to have this small, close-up view of the world,” she says. “It’s reassuring. Humans have always looked to the sky to try and find meaning, and Satellite is a reminder that sometimes it’s refreshing to look at the bigger picture.”
The largest artwork in the exhibition, measuring 1.6m across, Yuki’s diptych highlights how her canvasses can be interpreted as a portal into another world. Recently, the artist has become interested in architectural motifs, and the diptych was the perfect format in which to explore this. Like the ruins of an old building, the arches in the background of the painting crumble into the distance, suggesting the vanitas paintings of the Old Masters
The sense of mystery, spirituality and depth captured in these old religious paintings has long inspired my practice.