Interview: Chisato Yasui
Luca Curci talks with Chisato Yasui during FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES, the second appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
“I want to discover the unknown matter that exists in a liminal state which lays unconscious somewhere in this world, and from it, bring out the “not-yet-identified” contexts through my work. Many constructs intertwine in this world, such as countries, cultures, societies, race, and histories on which our lives are built upon. However, I believe that there are fluid contexts that do not fit into the existing constructs. We humans are not yet able to express such fluid contexts through our languages, because they are uncategorizable. In this fluid state is where my work exists. At the same time, in my daily life, I frequently experience emotions that do not fit into any obvious categories. But I can tune into these uncategorizable emotions more clearly as they become more audible during my creation process, especially when the clay is touching my hands. This perhaps could also be called a “not-yet-identified context”. I intuit that this “not yet-identified context” within me is connected to that of the world. I believe that these unseen, non-verbalized contexts are essential components of the visible world, like dark matter. I want to dig deep into the “not-yet-identified context” within myself and to deconstruct it, in order to create a new space that allows this context to exist. In other words, my process of creation itself can be the contextualization of the unknown.”
Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Chisato Yasui – Having a subject could be considered important in art, but it is not my primary focus.Rather than having a specific subject to focus on, I explore something which can not be identified as a solid subject but is relevant to everything in the world or to us. I want to discover the unknown matter that exists in a liminal state which lays unconscious somewhere in this world, and from it, bring out the “not-yet-identified” contexts through my ceramic work.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
CY – Although I specialize in ceramics now, I majored in oil painting until my second year at university. I changed my major from oil painting to crafts and ceramics by a happenstance. I was in my first year at college when I was painting still life in an assignment during an oil painting class, and I used colors that were not in the motif. Suddenly, the teacher said to me, “Use only the colors you can actually see. Don’t use colors you can’t see in the motif.” In terms of the purpose of the class, he was right. But I wanted to use colors that I felt and sensed at the moment. This experience made me realize that what I wanted was to visualize invisible things perceived by my soul, my senses, or my feelings, not to reproduce visible things which only my eyes perceive. Around the same time, I met Prof. Toshiju Saito, a faculty of the ceramic course, who is also a famous ceramic artist in Japan. I was hugely influenced by his artworks and his thoughts. He often said, “In creation, we should not impose our thoughts on the material. But, just obeying the material’s voice isn’t good, either. Look closely at the relationship between the material and us. It is important to find out how we are involved in the molding process and how much we control the material and ourselves. In that way, we should train ourselves to find out the truth using our own senses.” Prof. Saito’s words continue to influence me now. In addition, through the ceramic classes taught by Prof. Saito at the university and graduate school, I realized that ceramic was an ideal method for me to visualize my invisible and unverbalized feelings. The realization that Prof. Saito gave me was the beginning of my relationship with ceramic, which continues to this day.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
CY – To be honest, I don’t have any themes or subjects which I particularly prefer. It’s always exciting to encounter artworks that move me. Themes and subjects don’t have much to do with what moves me. As for myself, I want the viewer to be genuinely moved by the encounter with my works themselves, rather than by the theme, what I feel or think.
LC – What is your creative process like?
CY – My creation process starts from going to my studio. When I go to my studio, I consciously allow space between myself and society, and when I interact with clay, I am able to follow my intuition, feel the world at will, and also open my senses to the “not-yet-identified contexts”. And from the technical point of view, I use the technique of “coil forming” which is a method for stacking and molding strings of clay. In the process of “coil forming”, it is possible to shift the axis of a form during the creation process, to cut and separate a form into two or three or more, to combine completely different forms, and to reverse top to bottom, and flip left and right. The technique of “coil forming” goes well with the “intuition” and “spontaneity” that I need when I endeavor to discover the “not-yet-identified context”. In addition, I am fascinated by the fact that in ceramics, the role of the narrator shifts from myself to the work; I breathe my emotions into the clay during the creation process, and during firing the emotions evaporate and what is left is the visible and tangible context of the “not-yet-identified”. The work which is in a state of clay eventually leaves my hands and transforms into ceramic in the kiln, passing through the same temperature range as magma. Opening the door of the kiln is like the process of childbirth, cutting the umbilical cord of a baby. In the moment that the ceramics touch my hands, the work itself reveals the unidentifiable and speaks to us of a “new context”. Also, exhibiting my ceramic works means that this new context will intermingle with existing constructs, which allows me to observe how the “not-yet-identified” realm connects to the tangible world. It is my hope that by encountering the work, the “not-yet-identified” context resonates within the beholder and allows them to discover new contexts of their own. By doing so, I believe that the “not-yet-identified” contexts in me and that of the world will partially overlap, and both the beholder and I will be able to confirm its existence as a new context that can be shared with others.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
CY – In terms of production method, my style is consistent with “ceramics, hand-building.” However, the style of appearance of my work changes even within a year. This is because I am always changing. The motifs of my work are my own feelings and sensations. Also, there is more than one kind of change that happens within my feelings and senses. Several different paths of change occur chaotically within me. Therefore, sometimes I create work with completely different styles at the same time. I change the type of clay I use, the production process, and the firing temperature according to my feelings and senses at that time. On a moment-to-moment basis, the forms of my work prominently show my own changes.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
CY – I create with the hope that “boundaries” will function like pipes, connecting different people and domains, rather than as barriers to divide them. In this exhibition, collected works from all over the world visualize diverse identities and are composed to review and reconstruct the boundaries that have become conscious barriers. I think that my work is suitable in this respect. I empathize with works that focus on the concept of boundaries, which attempt to remove barriers to build new connections between humans or between humans and nature from a perspective supported by a variety of sensibilities.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
CY – As mentioned above, I find it very interesting. I always try to avoid judging things from a fixed perspective or a stereotypical point of view. I try to be open to change and be fluid myself, and I try not to consciously fixate on myself or my works. On the other hand, in the art world, it is considered good to be able to recognize the artist by looking at their work. Frequent changes in the appearance of the work are not favored. For this reason, I have always felt an “inferiority complex” or that it is a “weakness” to change my works along with my emotions and senses. However, the concept of the BORDERS ART FAIR by ITSLIQUID GROUP encouraged me to see that the fact that my works changes in response to the movement in my senses and feelings is actually a strength, and that it is also my “identity”. I would like to continue to coexist with my fluid sensibilities and emotions and make use of them in my works.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
CY – In today’s world, not only art, but the entire world seems to be categorized in too much detail. In some cases, I feel that “symbols” that were created to help us understand others have ironically created biases, making it difficult to see the essence of things. I believe that the ITSLIQUID GROUP provides an environment to dismantle biases and reevaluate the current situation from a neutral perspective. It is certainly an invaluable place.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
CY – I would have liked to hear from the jury on why the winners were chosen. For the winners, I would have liked to see a subsidy for shipping costs. This is because shipping costs, especially from outside the EU, are a big burden for artists. And above all, I would like you to create a system that can handle various languages from various countries. There are many artists who have the ability to create wonderful works but are not recognized by the world because they cannot speak English.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
CY – I think it is a meaningful group for the world. Not just art, but in a broader sense. It is a group that has the ability to accept and maximize the potential of people from different cultures and values. I hope that the ITSLIQUID GROUP will continue to create a fresh and neutral environment that can flexibly respond to changes in the world