My Worker is Working from Home and She is a Painter
Yuko Nishikawa is a Japanese designer/contemporary ceramicist based in Brooklyn, NY, specializing in fantastical installations, whimsical lighting and sculptures. With an Interior and Industrial Design background, she handcrafts one-of-a-kind lamps, chandeliers, sculptures, vases and tableware. //(Pre-Covid-19) She also runs a monthly Salon at Forest, a gathering and conversation of creative minds.
We asked her some questions about her quarantine painting project.
BR: You started this project in March. How long did you expect to be creating new paintings every day?
YN: I set out to make one painting everyday of my quarantine not knowing how long it would take for me to return to my ceramic studio. At first four weeks seemed a reasonable time to resume the “normal” activities and pretty soon it became apparent that the virus would stay with us much longer. In the middle of the project I returned to my ceramic studio but I decided I would continue the project until the 100th painting.
BR: What was the goal of this project?
YN: The goal of the project was to complete one painting everyday. It helped me structure my day and motivated me to maintain a good eating and sleeping habit.
BR: Did you have any obstacles to a daily painting practice that you had to overcome?
YN: I don’t think I did. If I did, I don’t remember. Getting new supplies like paper, paints and packaging materials were much slower than what I was used to and I did not know how to properly pack and ship paintings at first, but I figured that out along the way.
BR: What drove your decisions about materials, color, and design? Did those factors change throughout the project?
YN: Throughout the project I focused on happy, joyful, uplifting and comforting colors and expressions for this series. I also thought about skin, touch and plants.
I would start with an overall feeling I wanted to make in the painting, like, a piece that felt like funny-looking beans dangling from trees, or something like feathery and fuzzy and being snuggled in a blanket, or something comforting like woven fabric, or something fun like board games and chewing gum. Sometimes I would just get excited by new color tubes arriving in the mail and think about how I wanted to show that color. These were only starting points and the designs changed as I painted. I didn’t plan or draw out a final pattern. For some more geometric designs I made guiding marks which can also shift during the painting process.
BR: What are your other creative practices and interests? Do you find that your paintings are enriched by your other disciplines?
YN: I’ve been intensely working with ceramics for the past 6 years. I designed furniture for about a decade. Before that, I worked in interior design studios. When I was a kid, I made drawings, played the violin and rode a unicycle. I love the ocean and cheese, I enjoy strolling alone, eating and playing the piano, and find plants amusing. All these things creep into my work.
I really enjoyed seeing colors as I paint and working non-stop until completing a piece. This was a refreshing change from ceramics which I would not see the final results until after many hours of firing after days and weeks of drying.
This painting project trained me to complete one task at a time and seemed to have a positive effect on my ceramic studio practice. I worked less haphazardly and in a more organized manner.
BR: This project was confined in space and time. How does setting play a role in these works? In this practice?
YN: It made the scope of the project simple and clear. Because of that, I felt free to explore - free in use of color and in expressions.
BR: Now that you've stopped publishing a new painting every day, how do you regard your 100 days of this project?
YN: It was a luxurious time to be able put my creative focus and energy into painting and to be able to make new friends. I would go for a walk early in the morning, come back to have breakfast, and start painting at 8:30. I would paint for hours until lunch and some days a few more hours after the lunch break. I exchanged messages with people who have seen these paintings. Some of them started painting themselves, being inspired by this project.
Painting was something I always wanted to do but I never made time for doing it. The pandemic forced me to find a project I could make from home, and gave me the time to spend on things I kept on my wish list. In a way this project serves me as a journal. With each painting I remember where I was sitting, at what point in the painting process I took a lunch break, and if a storm came in the afternoon.