Monday, September 24, 2012

Aya Eukawa: The Feminine through Power & Control (by: Monica Carrier)

A beautiful hot summer day, my daughter and I rode a long, scenic train ride North of the city.  We arrived at a farm and met with the artist Aya Eukawa, her young daughter and her husband, also an artist.

There were bees buzzing around and carrots for the girls to feed to the bunnies. We spent the early afternoon picking strawberries in the vast fields. This idyllic setting was the start of a peaceful and inspiring visit

Following our family fun time, Aya and I got down to business and to the other side of our lives as artists. 

We traveled from the farm over to an old high school building that now serves as studios.  When we entered Aya's studio space, I was overwhelmed at the size and power of female figures commanding the space.  Aya is currently working on two 10-foot tall acrylic paintings of sad, stoic women.  One of them, inspired by German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach's Venus, is covered in finely detailed hair growing over her entire body, like a depiction of Eve as a feral goddess. This woman also resembles Aya a bit since she used herself as a partial reference - to me this gave the figure even more power. The other figure stands commanding a raging bull with ornate fur painted one tiny line at a time.   For the subject matter of this painting, Aya referenced the horrible ancient Greek torture and execution device known as the Brazen Bull.  Aya's woman stands within the bull accepting of her fate, sad but defiant in her composure.

Both of these figures are larger than life depictions of controlled, female sadness but with power in that control.  They are absolutely reminiscent of early Italian Renaissance figures but with a much more graphic quality so that they seem to move between reality and dreams.  Their perfectly smooth rendered flesh against the obsessive, graphic patterning of their hair and clothes along with the stark surrounding space absent of detail, gives them more mystery than there would be in a more specific setting.  In response to my question about why her figures are almost always these sad, controlled women, Aya refers to her personal history growing up in Japan.  She feels that this kind of control permeates the culture in which she was raised and she found it especially notable in the women of her family. She sees it as a kind of cultural defense and to avoid revealing too many emotions or weaknesses.

Aya will be showing these two paintings, in a three-person show at the Baltimore Museum of Art in March.

In selecting work for the upcoming Spring tART show, I kept in the back of my mind the idea of conversations between works that Jess Levey brought up when visiting my studio.  Aya had a couple of delicate pencil drawings in her studio that I felt brought a similar sense of unintentional communication between the works.  The first is a study for another painting of a head, just a head, with detailed long flowing hair alluding to the thought that this head has just rolled to where it is quietly sitting.  Despite the fact that it is a study for a larger painting it holds the same narrative of stoic sadness. The second is a study for the painting with the bull. It is a profile portrait seeming to look not with shock or horror towards the disembodied head on the paper next to it but simply with controlled regret.  Composure is the dominating presence in all of Aya's works.  Pairing these two drawings maintains the composure of both the victim (of the assumed beheading) as well as the witness to that horror. There is no panic anywhere to be seen despite the panic-worthy conditions.  There is sadness and strength in control. This is true in the stories of the women that are presented as well as in the obsessive, clean techniques of the artist. 

I left with the knowledge that we must keep going, keep steadily working, with our heads held high despite what hardships we face. We are strong, we can breathe through anything and just keep working.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A visit to Monica Carrier's Home Studio

On a sweltering summer day, I arrived at Monica's apartment where she has carved out just enough space for herself to make room for art making.  The hand made organizational structures in her small railroad apartment are impressive, as are the fresh concord grapes sitting on the table brought in moments ago from her Brooklyn backyard.

Coincidentally, space is an issue that arises in all of Monica's work, more specifically- the break down of space and the growth that occurs when given just enough room. What is also vital in her process is the letting go of oneself once a structure is decided.

This can be seen in her large works which begin within an architectural framework and then break down as seen here:

This process of letting go within a specific framework is even more apparent within her small ink blot drawings which are incredible. Monica looks at these works as spirits revealing themselves. Since her Mother's incredibly sad passing this past summer, Monica has felt stronger ties to the spiritual world. She has been exploring the readings of Joseph Campbell and has been occupied with studies of myth, shamanism, and the subconscious. These Ink blot drawings are direct results of this developing interest. She creates a structure, as she always has done, but then lets the portrait reveal itself to her within the process of drawing and blotting. Here are a few of my favorites of this work:

Her process reminds me of cloud gazing/shaping, a most entertaining pastime, and I am a bit jealous of her amazing organic process, one which is very different from my own more planned out and rigid methods of art making.  I think we can all learn from Monica's studio practice. I find that it is vital to all artists to learn to let go within our"planned" framework," for that is when the real magic can happen.

Fortunately, Monica also let me make my own shamanic drawing. I am scared to death of a blank piece of paper so it was challenging, and strangely enough I ended up drawing a large swirl which ended up looking like one big phallus, which made sense since I was just beginning to believe that the baby I am carrying is a boy. Monica, finished my drawing for me, and found amazing imagery hidden in it's blots and lines. Here she is working away....

Thank you Monica for an inspiring visit (and for the delicious grapes)!