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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Japanese Illustrator - Fuco Ueda, animal for buddies, Danger for playground

Written by Alexandre Martinazzo
Images source: Fuco Ueda

The color is faded brown. Four schoolgirls are playing with twigs in the quasi-emptiness of the page, wearing faceless cat masks. Another one is fishing in the throat of a classmate, making her kneel anad moan as she pulls the trout out of her mouth. Another one’s running barefoot on the crosswalk, pulled by the seven pigs she was walking. A schoolgirl steals a zebra striped skin to use it as stockings…

Looking at Fuco Ueda’s work for the first time is like entering a new form of representation of the universe. But isn’t that what surrealism is about? Spooky juxtapositions of unrelated things, unexpected guests, absurd mix-up, invasive and eccentric symbolism speak for themselves. Of course, to some people, surrealism is just a way of talking about meaningless crap. But the young artist, born in 1979 in Japan and painting since the late 90s, has knocked to the only right door: not only her art is rich and constantly surprising; but it’s also coherent. Using acrylics and powdered mineral pigments on paper, or cloth, or even wood to create intensely saturated colors in a world of feminine fantasy, Fuco Ueda has created a whole universe of hers, made of slender and ethereal teenage girls on the brink of danger, interested animals, fantasy plots and… superb skin tone color work. Ueda’s paintings could be seen as a kind of feminine and Japanese – in one word, visceral – a work that could fit Roq La Rue Gallery taste. And much less cute, because who said girls are cute deep inside?

No violence in Fuco Ueda’s scenes, not even a single dynamo, each one of her characters seems to be trapped into a sweet and sour nightmare, feeling strengthened by the painting’s out of this world backgrounds and lightings. But instead, repetitiveness or graphic obsession for details does the trick. The schoolgirls’ expressiveness plays a huge part in that feeling, and what Fuco Ueda’s paintings convey: whether it’s a medium shot or a rare nosy close-up, each of them displays the same expression… boredom. Because Ueda exploits the surrealism language to the non sequitur point, the scenes she paints often hold some more or less tiny detail that makes it absurdly funny; but beyond that, we’ve only got a representation of teenage-craty through a phantasmagoric lens.

Animals are either their best buddies, like turtles they use as a mean of transport and help laying their eggs, most of the marine life; or enemies, like mean hawks who pull their hair. As a matter of fact, the wild fauna from the deep blue sea may be the most portrayed of all. Now, Japan being an island chain and having a very rich sexual imagination, marine life and water itself are often associated to sexual intercourse. That crucial element of Ueda’s work may be, with the schoolgirl’s outfit, the only thing that makes it “Japanese-like”.

Fuco Ueda’s world could be resumed by three of her most dashing paintings. The first one represents a scattered crowd of crouching faceless schoolgirls, hiding globes under their skirts as a metaphor of life. The second one represents what may be the same girls whose faces are now off-screen, probably chatting while they walk their turtles on a leash. The third one portrays a master-servant’s everyday scene, the servant wearing a bird’s mask, and serving water to the huge squid wrapped round her master’s leg. Sacred link between the female figure, the very existence of life, and the dilemmas it generates, physical and childish expressions of the uneasiness, sacred link between this subconscious libido and threatening ocean, ambiguous wild life reminding us of our very probable uncertain nature… Fuco Ueda is cute. Her work is cute. And accidentally, it looks right into the eyes of the universe, like a kid staring at you in the subway.

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