Well Being

Artist Profile: Shinji Turner-Yamamoto

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Artist Profile  Shinji Turner Yamamoto rainbow jpg


Artist: Shinji Turner-Yamamoto
Location: Washington DC

Website: Raandesk Gallery of Art

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Irish Black Rainbow

What is your creative process like?
I collaborate with nature to create subtle minimalist works made with pure materials that evoke the natural world. Working on the wild coast of southwest Ireland, I created “rain drawings” en plein air, shown spring 2008 in a solo show at Shigeko Bork Mu Project. Shafts of light and ephemeral rainbows– elements of the Irish winter landscape– inspired me to concentrate on light and its natural permutations as the principal subject of these works. Ash and soot from the turf burned in my fireplace, and found crystals, found sheep’s wool, Indian yellow, gambouge, tree resin, silver, slate powders presented the ideal materials coupled with the intervention of rain, to express these natural manifestations and my emotional reactions to specific events in the landscape.

My recent installation at the Greater Reston Arts Center brought my global TREE PROJECT to the greater Washington area. Through these site-specific installations mounted in India, Ireland, Japan, I work with identifiable imagery to encourage audiences to encounter aspects of nature in a new way. I am currently working with the US National Arboretum to create a series of installations in 2010 on the institution’s grounds and with Mary Baskett Gallery in Cincinnati to realize a large-scale installation project for the abandoned 19th century Holy Cross Church for fall 2009.

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Constellation (triptych)

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
Working with Buon Fresco technique at the Kyoto City University of Art and later in Italy was very important for developing my creative process. When you work with fresh plaster, you have only 8 hours to complete your work—it’s an opportunity to participate in nature’s process of mineralization. The wall dries in a certain way, with the same color turning to different tones depending on when you apply it to the wall. When the wall stops absorbing pigments, you know that your time is over. The plaster has already moved to the next phase to becoming part of the limestone.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?

I used to collect minerals and fossils at abandoned mines and mountains or rivers. One day I went to find river gold. I was dubious, how’ would it be possible to distinguish gold from all other millions of mineral fragments in the river sand… But the gold was so different from all other minerals and it stood out. It was like pure light; when you see it you know that it is gold. It was like finding a small star in the river.

What inspires you to create?
I find my inspiration in the course of everyday encounters with nature. In 2005, for example, I saw a large uprooted oak in a park. It lay as if sleeping on a gently sloping grass-covered hill. When I returned a few days later, the tree had disappeared. In place of its roots remained a scar, a mound of raw earth. I envisioned a new tree growing on this mound. It was a start of a new series, Sleeping Tree, and my realization about its strong connections with other works I had been creating around an imagery of tree. I defined these works as Global Tree Project.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
Creating works is like breathing to me. It never gets tough to create new works. Rather, I have to worry about what kind of works I should not be creating, and staying true to my focus.

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What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
The time we pass in our studios is very important. I feel the total amount of time we dedicate to our work counts a lot.

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Reading, writing, traveling, walking in the woods. And cooking, a lot of my creative energy goes into experimentation with new foods.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
Rice, in every permutation.

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Shinji Turner-Yamamoto