The Urban Landscapes of Yogyami
I’ve always found it quite exciting to gaze out across a city from above. The notion that so many mysteries and wonders and experiences are hidden within the seemingly impenetrable mass of concrete which stretches out to the horizon fascinates me. At any moment, a wealth of new and fascinating discoveries are waiting to be made. Or imagined.
Yet there’s a flip-side too – as much as a joyful sense of positive adventure is inspired, it’s simultaneously tinged with a slight sense of potential overwhelm – there’s just so much out there. The sheer enormity of this massive metropolis can almost feel intimidating and isolating at times.
In how many different ways can the urban density of a city be shown?
Artists such as Terada Toshiyuki capture a sense of playful engagement with the shapes and patterns and forms of the city, while Sato Shintaro makes clear the contrast of distance and proximity, a sense of the “beyond” of the city, with his works which express the “million glittering lights”, the nocturnal vistas. And Samuel Cockedey creates timelapse video of the Tokyo urban density to staggering effect.
All You Need is Love
One artist whose works show a quite different aspect of the urban environment, is Yogyami. Her images capture a very intimate and inviting feeling, while also evoking a playful and joyful sense of exploration.
Yogyami was last year selected from among 1,275 entries by emerging artists across Japan to be featured at the national Sompo Japan FACE (Frontier Artists Contest Exhibition) 2013.
Her painting “All You Need is Love” – an enormous, vibrant and luminous canvas of glowing coloured lights – attracted enormous attention and achieved the distinction of being voted among the top names in the exhibition’s Audience Award.
Wanting to know more about this captivating nocturnal scene, I asked Yogyami a number of questions about the background to the work and her artistic inspiration and practice.
Yogyami – in depth
Are the locations in your paintings real or imaginary?
I’m drawn to real views and landscape subjects, but because of my colour choice, the works become a balance of reality and imagination.
Why have you chosen to paint images of houses, with multicoloured walls or roof tiles?
I paint rows of houses as a symbol of the “everyday” .
Although the “everyday” and repetition of the same things may not seem special, I think that if this large portion of our lives is spent with positive feelings (such as gratitude and thanks for those people close to us), life can feel more precious and fulfilling.
The rows of houses I have painted so far are mostly in foreign places. They are ordinary views for the people who live there, but for me as a Japanese person they evoke wonder.
Similarly, I think that the ordinary views I see in my daily life in Japan may seem quite wonderful for people who come from faraway places. So in future I want to paint Japanese views.
As a means to express this, I use vivid colour in my work. By using imagined colours, the walls of houses, the roof tiles and the light from windows create a heightened reality, more colourful than the views in reality.
However, as I paint I am very aware of the colour balance and do pay very close attention to the colour selection.
I truly enjoy painting each work, as I love colour.
The daytime works feature coloured buildings, whereas the night works are dominated by coloured lights. Is there a difference in what you’re expressing with these two styles?
In the daytime landscapes, the individual homes are brightly lit from the outside, so the colour is external, representing each family being filled with happiness from the warm sunlight of the world.
However in the night landscapes, the external world glows in the gentle coloured light shining from the windows of each home, the happiness of each family radiating out.
While painting, I imagine both the light of individuals and of the world shining together, peacefullly.
Both types of light have the same meaning, both express warmth and love, the only difference is in their direction – either from within or from without.
The places look very warm, glowing, inviting. They inspire a real desire to be there, to wander the streets, to explore. You could say it evokes a childlike feeling of playfulness. How do you create this feeling?
When people look at my paintings, I want them to feel like being there in the cities, inside the images, and I always imagine that as I work.
Your description of this as “warm, glowing, inviting” is exactly the impression I aim for, and I’m happy that you were able to feel it.
I want to give a good feeling to people who look at my pictures. So I always choose interesting towns and express them with beautiful colours.
I create these vivid colours by painting many very thin layers of paint. I hope that these colours convey a sense of happiness.
I think the towns that I paint are something like an “ideal world”. If families of people are happy, it makes for a happy town, and happy towns make for a happy country and happy planet. This is the situation I am describing in my work.
A narrow street, a small set of stairs, these things give a city a sense of originality and interest and make me curious. Where do these stairs lead to, I wonder? If I go down this little street, where will I end up? I paint these kind of things in the paintings which make me feel a little excitement.
With the towns at night, by controlling carefully the contrast of lighting, it gives the town a further mysterious attraction.
Has your work developed a lot, from a few years ago until now?
The Great East Japan Earthquake was an opportunity for me to reconsider my “everyday” life, gave me a new perspective, and I began to produce independent work.
To summarize my background, I majored in oil painting at college, mainly landscapes, although there was no real message in my works then, I simply painted what attracted me.
After graduation I travelled to Italy and, to expand my knowledge, studied mosaic-making near the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze. I was also blessed with the opportunity to see many great works of art there.
The images I paint now are mainly of the cities I visited during that time.
After returning from Europe, I became assistant to a mural painter from NY living in Japan. In this role I worked long hours with little rest, and had no time to produce any original work of my own. But I think the experience was invaluable and precious, and my painting skills certainly improved.
During my sixth year as an assistant, the March 2011 earthquake occurred. Contemplating the fact that such a natural disaster could befall any of us at any time, affected me deeply. I considered my life, quit my work, began painting independently.
I came to paint with a care and love unlike in previous years, with a feeling of love and gratitude for my family and others close to me. I think through my training and experiences I finally became able to express my ideas maturely, in a way I couldn’t before.
The influence of mosaics on my work is large. Studying them in Italy taught me to be able to make more delicate work. I was also influenced by coloured Venetian glass, which I used for the mosaic works, and now use that skill in colour selection for my paintings.
The challenges of being an assistant taught me more techniques of colour control and finish.
All the efforts built up little by little, and all I saw and heard now supports me in painting my own works. There may be a long way to go, but I’m on my way, painting daily with devotion.
Finally, what would you say is the main message in your work?
I try to express Love in my pictures. And I hope others will be able to feel a sense of love when they look at the works .
Whatever I paint in the future, I think I will always express in my work the main message of Love.
Links and latest news
Yogyami is currently working towards a solo exhibition in Tokyo. More details will be posted here as they come available.