uyuko Matsui is one of the most original and interesting young artists on the Japanese art scene. In the tradition of Nihonga art, which is based on age-old techniques and materials and deeply rooted in the national culture, Fuyuko creates works with a very strong emotional impact, based on powerful subjects and personal themes, and even connected with her psychoanalytical path.
Loss, violence and mutilation - but also love, desire and passion - are some of the feelings that inspire her paintings, often provocative and yet delicate and quintessentially Japanese. Originally from Mori, in the Shizuoka Prefecture, Fuyuko has exhibited her works in several important galleries and museums in Tokyo and Japan, as well as in in Paris, Sweden, and San Francisco (with the group exhibition "Phantoms of Asia" at the Asian Art Museum).
After studying oil painting, you switched to traditional Japanese painting. Why?
FM: I chose to dedicate myself to oil painting when I was still a child, without hesitation. It was only later, while attending the Tokyo University of the Arts, that I began to be interested in other artistic forms, including Japanese sculpture and painting. When I discovered the work of Japanese artist Hasegawa Tōhaku, a National Treasure, I was literally swept away. I realized that his Shōrin-zu byōbu (“Screen with Pines”) was just as amazing as Leonardo's Mona Lisa, and that I was deeply rooted in that kind of art, so beautiful and emblematic of Japanese culture. There and then, I decided to switch from oil painting to traditional Japanese painting.
What kind of a child were you?
FM: Oh, I was a tomboy! I used to play outside and draw for hours, until my mother called me to order.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art? Was there a precise moment?
: When I was nine years old, I remember being struck by the enigmatic gaze of a reproduction of the Gioconda
hanging in the library. Back home, I said to my mother: "I want to become like Leonardo da Vinci!". Sometime later, comparing the earlier works of Pablo Picasso with his more mature ones, I remember thinking: "Being a painter must be cool!".
What is it that fascinates you about Japanese art?
: In addition to emerging from the outlines, which enclose rigor and harmony in a single stroke, the beauty of Japanese painting also lies in the empty spaces defined by them.
Leonardo da Vinci
for me he is a mentor,
a model and a rival
You had a solo exhibition in Paris and are currently exhibiting your works in Sweden. Did you notice any differences between the way the Japanese and Europeans perceive and experience art?
FM:In Paris, amongst the visitors were ladies who stopped by at the gallery on their way back home from shopping and began discussing about the works on display like true art critics, showing a strong artistic sensibility.
In Sweden, we even had families with children come visit. In the Nordic countries, art is part of everyday life, and a crucial element in children’s education.
In Japan, on the other hand, enjoying art is deemed a solemn and refined experience, and certainly not something that is part of your everyday routine. It is extremely rare to see children at exhibitions, and there is a strong distinction between art lovers and those who are not interested in art. However, if someone has an interest in art, then it manifests itself in the form of a totalizing passion, by virtue of which they one is even willing to stand in line for five hours under the scorching summer sun, just to be able to enjoy a much-coveted exhibition.