Paper soaked by the sea: Yuko Kimura at The Verne Collection

Yuko Kimura, “Yellow Mushikui.” 2020. Etching, aquatint, antique woodblock book pages from Japan, collage

Yuko Kimura, “Red Mushikui Spool Book.” 2019. Etching and aquatint on antique Japanese book pages, collage, thread, old spool.

Through their website, the Verne Collection is hosting Usumono, an exhibit of unique paper works by Japanese-American artist Yuko Kimura.

Based out of a brick-and-mortar gallery on Murray Hill Road in uptown Cleveland, Verne specializes in contemporary Japanese art. However, they do represent American artists, including Cleveland’s own Timothy Callaghan and Gloria Plevin. Kimura has a foot in both Japan and America. Born in Oakland, CA, she was raised in Tokyo. Since 1989, she has lived in the U.S.

Usumono names a lightweight, gauzy silk produced in Japan. In both form and content, Kimura references traditional Japanese art. Many of her pieces could be described as “mixed media,” but all contain traditional Japanese paper products—sheaves made from Kozo and Gampi plants, and even re-appropriated pages from antique Japanese texts. Several pieces are “spool books,” scrolls wound around wooden cylinders.

In content, Kimura flits lightly between abstraction and representation, sometimes in the same image. When Kimura turns representational, she usually shows landscapes or other nature scenes.

There are, of course, many schools and eras in Japanese visual art. Kimura draws on one strand which is most distinct from the Western tradition. This strand did not aim for the true-to-life color, perspective, chiaroscuro, or minute detail which characterized European painting from the Renaissance to academicism. Instead, it used just a few colors of ink, or even just one, to depict nature scenes situated in expansive negative space.

If pressed for time, Kimura’s paper works could be described as synthesizing Japanese nature painting with modernist “color fields.” The description offers a rough idea of what to expect from Kimura’s work visually. However, it excludes broader context. Kimura’s process and material choices speak to a complicated relationship with Eastern artistic heritage. She uses traditional materials, and even goes so far as to incorporate pages from old books. By displaying those pages in a gallery setting, she honors their historic significance. Yet she literally marks over them, layering new upon the old.

“Night Shimmer VII” is a monotype on antique book pages. A rectangular, navy blue color field stretches across its bottom half; and a lapis lazuli field across the top. The piece can be seen either as a pleasing balance of contrasting shades; or as a nighttime horizon. The lower, darker half is lined, as if with gentle waves. The paper of the upper, lighter half is tattered. This exposes amorphous patches of the white backdrop “Night Shimmer VII” was photographed in front of. The white spots could be sea birds; clouds; or splashes of the Milky Way. “Little Waves” and “Little Waves IV” depict cliffs lapped by a low surf.

Yuko Kimura, “Little Waves IV.” 2019. Etching, monotype, handmade Kozo paper, thread.

Other pieces show nature on a smaller scale. “Moss Shiwa Shiwa” draws inspiration from growing plant forms, presenting a square of green and white tendrils. The gold of “Yellow Mushikui” recalls the leaves of autumn.

Usumono can be seen on The Verne Collection’s website. For more information, call the Verne gallery at 216-231-8866 or go to Kimura’s personal site.

Yuko Kimura, “Moss Shiwa Shiwa.” 2020. Etching, aquatint, handmade kozo paper, antique book pages from Japan, collage.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.