Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sakura Koretsune: "Vanishing Points" BFA Exhibition

In keeping with my not-so-intrepid blogging tradition, here's another well-after-the-fact post featuring one of the better exhibits to grace the walls of the UAF Art Department by Sakura Koretsune (link to a gallery of her work here).
More after the jump... 

One nice advantage of being in an art department is not only being able to see any given individual's work - you can also compare and contrast different shows against each other (a good example being the previous exhibit). And since the show turnover is at a much greater pace than at off-campus galleries you can really have an accelerated exposure to a wide diversity of creativity, even within a single semester. And aside from practical insights and inspiration, the more exposure to different styles and techniques you get as a practicing artist will enables you to broaden your base of experience, and in turn critique better. No different than not knowing what you like to eat when you haven't even seen the menu, much less having tried eating anything: and even then if it's unpalatable, it shouldn't stop you from trying the same dish again but prepared by a different cook. In this way a sense of personal taste evolves and you can at least appreciate if not enjoy other palettes. Near-total immersion in a creative environment and being constantly surrounded by other working artists and the unique opportunity to observe them firsthand ferments an atmosphere ripe for both doing and talking about art.
And I find it really hard to whip out responses to works on the spot: knee-jerk reactions are so often at complete odds with residual impressions that linger long after the critique and tend to either evolve into better appreciation and understanding (or on the other hand, confirm suspicions that the work is total crap): one reason I always try and open up a little reflective breathing space between the first review of a piece and the subsequent grading.

There are relatively few both within this department and in the surrounding community who discipline themselves to consistently produce works at such a prodigious rate as Sakura: most mornings when I'm the sole person in the halls (excepting the "mornin' Ralph" custodial shift) there's usually a light on in the painting studio, and she's already at work, every single day of the week, including weekends and holidays. We have been rewarded with an impressive body of work that represented focused discipline and phenomenal output.
(detail from "Moonlit Corals")

That was actually my main criticism: with a total of thirty-eight pieces on display - given the repetitive imagery and reoccurring motifs, it could have easily been edited down to a third of that and been a much tighter, more effective show. One got the impression that there was a garage sale of art going on with the sprawl spilling out from the gallery into the department hallways: usually symptomatic of either an enormous ego or, in this case, a common inability to cull selections that best represent an overall sampling of works. Less is more when it comes to overwhelming the viewer with such a visual avalanche: it's the aesthetic equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet versus a tasteful presentation of simple a meal done well.

Some of her work has been previously posted here while she was enrolled in an Advanced Drawing class last summer, and her work ethic set the bar for the Beginning and Intermediate students to emulate. Sakura also scored some outstanding media coverage for this show with a great cover story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner plus mention in the UAF student paper, the Sun Star. In both interviews plus in her artist statement she emphasized the concepts of "nostalgia" and "ideas of distance" separating her from relationships in both the physical, temporal and spiritual senses, as in from family and culture.
In several pieces a darker undercurrent is suggested with a sense of alienation, hurt, longing and loss, which made a profound impression and evoked an deep emotional response in many of the people in my class as they wrote about the show. Sakura cites the work of Japanese Nihonga painter Ikuo Hirayama as a particular influence in her usage of color. Another cultural motif that translated into an unexpectedly Alaskan connection resonated with several students as well: the reoccurring water, netting and fishing references called to mind village subsistence activities. Another interesting observation was the absence of any males, which may have expressed another Asian tradition of suppression.
While I found her rendering of the human form almost unrefined at times, it was more than compensated by her stylistic, infantalized portrayals and the iconic symbolism she uses. Also the anonymity of many paintings avoided any individualized personality at all by depicting people with hidden faces, or viewed from the back - these contrasted against the more engaging pieces with intimate close-ups.

One immediate distinction is her use of unique dimensions in the canvas sizes: elongated vertical formats reflect her compositions in conjunction with her employment of linear perspective and foreshortening - something my beginning drawing class noted and appreciated! These techniques further accentuated the theme of distance and separation, and it was a break from the 99% majority of 2d works that stick with conventional canvas dimensions. Lastly she also exhibited a handful of sculptural pieces and one teasing monoprint, proof that her ideas are equally adaptable into other mediums.
Taken together with her strong concepts, Sakura's work is an inviting experience for the viewer and we can look forward to seeing more of her pieces appear in print and on the web.

(detail from "Red, White and Blue")

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