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Yuria Okamura

About Yuria

Yuria Okamura is a Melbourne-based artist whose drawing practice explores metaphysical imaginings through the language of geometry and diagrammatic aesthetics.

Yuria completed her MFA (Research) at The University of Melbourne in 2015 and BFA (Honours) at RMIT University in 2010.  She has received a number of awards, scholarships and residencies including Australia Council Career Development Grant, Stuart Black Memorial Scholarship, Ursula Hoff Institute Drawing Award, Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award, RMIT Honours Travelling Endowment Scholarship, The Studios at MASS MoCA (USA), Abbotsford Convent Studio Residency, Bayside City Council Residency and Takt Artist Residency (Germany).

She has exhibited at Incinerator Gallery, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, La Trobe Art Institute, C3 Contemporary Art Space, Anna Pappas Gallery, Five Walls, Tributary Projects (ACT), Kunstraum Tapir (Germany), Langford 120, Seventh Gallery, Japan Foundation Gallery (NSW), and Mølla På Grim (Norway).  Her work has been featured on international magazines including Fukt (Germany) and Create Mag (USA).

Yuria’s artwork

Interview

How do you describe your work to others?
My work begins with works on paper and incorporates wall drawing to create immersive installations that occupy spaces.  I bring together and reconfigure geometric forms that reference patterns in nature, esoteric symbolism, occult diagrams, religious architecture and decoration, and spiritualist abstract painting.

I examine the symbolic implications of harmonic ideals that seem to be universally embedded in the orderliness of geometry, and how such ideas might be reinterpreted in the new interrelated compositions.  For my wall drawings, I try to incorporate spatiality by using architecture and garden as visual metaphors.  In this way, I hope to draw up open-ended contemplative spaces where nature and architecture, and physical and metaphysical worlds come together.

Do you have a preferred medium?
Yes.  Drawing with pens and painting with diluted acrylic on paper.  I also work directly on walls, which allows me to make large, spatial works.  I’d like to experiment with other materials, possibly fabric and ceramics, but I think drawing on paper will always be my primary medium.

How do you begin new work?
New ideas come to me in lots of different ways, from reading, travelling, researching other artists, going to museums and galleries, but mostly through reflecting on all these experiences while making work.  And because I think about new ideas through the process of making, I usually know what I want to make next before I complete a work.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
Both, as one series leads to the next continually.

What attracts you to your subjects?
Geometry has been used to illustrate knowledge and to project ideals throughout history and across cultures due to its capacity to visualise abstract concepts and symbolise the unseen.  Making geometric drawings allows me to interpret intangible things and experiences imaginatively through a kind of abstract reasoning and aesthetic logic.  From patterns in nature, esoteric symbols to religious decoration, I think geometric forms have the potential to invite meaningful translations of the world around us.

What do you use as reference material?
So many things!  But mostly travel photos and books on architecture and decoration.  I also look at illustrations, maps, and diagrams from architecture, science and history books.  I put these images on my studio wall, so they are constantly in my view.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Because I work with geometry and symmetry, I always prepare a precise plan drawing for each work.  It’s essential, especially for large-scale wall installations, to have all the measurements right for the overall composition.  However, I like to leave some room for intuitive decision-making, so colours and smaller details like patterns and line work often change as I go.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Blue, green and gold.  I like referencing nature through my colours and I use gold, which is often associated with divinity, in the hope of celebrating nature and advocating for meaningful translations of natural forces.

Where do you create?
Anywhere I can!  Making works on paper in my studio is my favourite, but I often do planning and sketching at home or while travelling, and my wall drawings are created in gallery spaces.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
Not particularly. I usually put on music or a podcast and start working straight away.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
It depends on the process.  The planning process requires concentration so I’d usually put on something instrumental.  When doing something repetitive, like drawing straight lines and painting patterns, I’d often listen to a podcast or an audiobook.  When I install wall drawings, I tend to listen to fast-pace music like techno or psy-trance – it makes me work faster!

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
I find it difficult!  But I think it’s important as it forces me to reflect on the work and my ideas and intentions behind it.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
All of it: getting excited about a new idea, getting into the ‘flow’ of making, completing a body of work, and repeating the cycle.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
I think I’m still emerging!  “Just keep going!”  I guess!?

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
Kate Just, who was my research supervisor for my MFA.  She has always been extremely generous and supportive, and she instilled a confidence in me as an artist.

How do you alleviate the down times?
I usually find that the best cure is to keep making work.  I might slow down a little after a really busy period but I generally like to keep my hands moving!

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Most recently the Hilma af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  She was a Swedish artist and a mystic who is considered to be one of the earliest abstract painters.  She drew inspiration from nature and esotericism, and the abstract forms she painted were very symbolic.  Seeing her work in the flesh in the circular structure of the Guggenheim, which coincidentally resembled the temple design the artist hoped to build, was very special.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully lots of studio time, and many exciting opportunities that will allow me to keep growing as an artist.

Yuria Okamura’s website

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