Thursday, 5 July 2007

Interview: KAKO UEDA

As with artist Nikki McClure, Kako Ueda creates more often with an X-acto knife as opposed to a pen or brush. Her works are elaborate forms with a strong sense of her Japanese roots and nature.

Working at
ARAS and with a strong interest in her medium's history and its association with culture, she has a fascinating body of work. She has recently been the recipient of the 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship.

Would you share your history with paper from your childhood discoveries to your current work?
I learned to make an origami crane and other animals from my friends as well as from my parents. I started drawing and painting early on (3-4 years old) and I distinctively remember that the first time I used canvas to paint oil (I was 11 or 12), I didn't like it. So I went back to painting on paper with watercolor and acrylic. I also remember that I made paper dresses for my dolls (including Barbie!!) when I was a little girl.

I studied photography in college. I initially wanted to get into the painting department but it was very competitive; you had to fight for a studio space so I was kind of fed up, thinking "I could paint on my own and I want to learn something totally new" so I chose photography as my main study. The teachers in the photo department were wonderful and I learned to really look at things in a frame. I also discovered the beauty of black and white photography. I continued to paint & draw (oil sticks) on paper on my own. I was accepted to Pratt Institute graduate program in 1996 based on the organic inspired abstract drawings I did on paper. I started folding paper while at Pratt and my thesis show was a group of wall-reliefs made of dye-cut envelops (which I cut myself). There were black and white ones and very minimal looking but suggestive of the body somehow.

Is there a particular approach you have to colour? Is there a fixed palette that you prefer? And how would you differentiate between your monochromatic silhouettes and full colour works?
Sticking to black, white and grey is very comfortable for me, that is why I sometimes have to use colors to put myself in an uncomfortable place. To me colors could be overly emotional and could give mixed messages. Black and white can be expressive and "colorful" too but always with a certain sense of restraint. When I use colors I tend to go all the way and create "very colorful" work as if I let go of something.

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