2023. 11. 16 - 2024. 2. 4 | [VISIT] SpaceK Seoul
‘Space K Seoul’ presents Journey, a solo exhibition by Japanese artist Yuichi Hirako (b. 1982), who works internationally based in Tokyo, from November 16, 2023 to February 4, 2024. The exhibition, titled Journey, features more than 30 works that cross genres, including paintings, sculptures, and installations by the artist. Hirako has been introducing landscapes with flora and fauna, focusing on the relationship between human and nature. He seeks the coexistence of human and nature to change the way we view nature.
Yuichi Hirako Profile, Courtesy of Space K Seoul
Born in Okayama, Japan, Hirako graduated from Wimbledon College of Art in London, England, and is currently based in Tokyo, Japan. He held solo exhibitions at Nerima Art Museum, Tokyo in 2022, and participated in group exhibitions at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai in 2021, Sakura City Museum of Art, Tokyo in 2019, and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in 2013. In 2013, he was awarded the Vision of Contemporary Art (VOCA), an award for emerging Japanese artists. His works are in the collections of Powerlong Museum in Shanghai and Jean Pigozzi Collection in Switzerland.
Many of Hirako’s works feature plants and animals. His childhood in Okayama, a city with a rich natural environment, played a major role in shaping his view of art. His memories of being out in nature, collecting insects and fishing, were a positive influence. He then turns his attention to the role of nature in the urban environment. The inspiration came from his experience living in the big city of London while studying abroad. At this point, he became skeptical about urban greenery, or nature that is artificially placed in certain areas, such as street trees and parks. This is because he perceived this nature for people’s psychological comfort as an artificial nature that could not be sustained without human care. He believed that various social issues related to the environment also need to change, starting with the human-centered attitude toward nature. Therefore, he has tried to put human and nature on a more equal footing. As a result, his work evolves into a composition where various plants and animals are placed alongside a human-shaped tree.
Memories of My Garden / A march, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 130.5 x 162.4cm
Memories of My Garden / A march, 2010, which is Hirako’s imaginary garden, is a good example of his attitude toward nature. His gardens are surrealistic depictions of nature, not the gardens we cultivate. The work shows a somewhat dreary forest landscape, with a tree-headed human roaming the forest. A closer look at the forest reveals plants and trees that look like humans. At first glance, they look like leaves, but sometimes they’re wearing pants, sometimes they’re dressed in shirts and ties, and other times they look like little fairies. All are organic combinations of humans and plants.
Hirako brings a specific character to the canvas every time. The character is based on tree spirits from Japanese folklore and is characterized by a human body with a tree head. Hirako says that this hybrid character is both a self-portrait of himself and a portrait of everyone who has a relationship with nature. After all, the character is a medium between human and nature, and in this exhibition, he goes on a journey of his daily life with dogs, cats, and various plants. Sometimes by the river, sometimes in the forest, and other times in a room, he creates scenes where he merges with flora and fauna and transforms them into various media such as painting, sculpture, and installation to give the viewer a more sensory understanding of nature.
Traveling Plants, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 333.3 x 994 cm
In this exhibition, the hybrid character goes on a journey, blending in with various plants. is a large-scale painting over 10 meters long and 3 meters high. In this piece, which consists of four separate works, the character is also located in a forest, somewhere. One is standing among colorful seed-like objects, while another is relaxing under the stars with flowers and plants. Meanwhile, birds are perching on trees and staring off into the distance. This work is composed of four paintings in different formats, each with a different composition, but connected by the colors painted on each canvas. Because of this, the piece is both fragmented and coexistent in its narrative. The metaphor is that seeds cross boundaries and take root in different natures to flourish, which is like a camping trip, and then there is the presence of birds to help them along the way.
Wooden Wood 49, 2023, acrylic on wood, 345 x 830 x 250 cm
In Wooden Wood 49, 2023, the fruits of various plants are installed with two hybrid characters. The giant characters, over 3 meters tall, are made of wood carvings, giving them a distinctive texture. Primary-colored fruits are also placed around the perimeter to create the illusion that the characters collected them. Hirako’s three-dimensional characters are now out of the flat surface, reducing the distance between them and reality. He created the sculptures so that his work doesn’t feel like a fairy tale or a faraway place. It is about experimenting with the sensation of the object that the viewer feels when crossing dimensions.
<-Green Master 84, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 259 x 194 cm
->Lost in Thought 65, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 194 x 259 cm
The Green Master, 2023 series is a portrait type of work. The character is in the foreground, and the back is full of plant pots. It looks like the hybrid character holding a dog or a cat to demonstrate his ability to handle plants. Hirako envisions them as more than objects to be cared for, but as companions to embark on a new journey with a variety of potted plants. In the previous work, Lost in Thought 65, 2021, this situation is depicted in more detail. The character, the ‘Green Master’, takes the plants that have accompanied him on his boat and goes on an adventure to new places.
Hirako noted the borderless movement of plants and trees. Unlike humans, who socially compartmentalize themselves and create borders, plants cross boundaries voluntarily, with the help of birds or wind, to reproduce and colonize. In a social sense, Journey is carried out in a way of crossing borders or boundaries. Hirako says that it is a system that developed out of human need, and plants don’t have to follow it. It also emphasizes nature as an object that spans generations. Their survival strategy of reproducing their species through fruits and seeds feels like an uncertain future, but the open ending also gives their journey a sense of freedom. Hirako incorporates this meaning into the title of the exhibition, Journey, to weigh the differences between human and nature on an equal footing.
Installation View of Journey. Courtesy of Space K Seoul
Yuichi Hirako, who seeks the coexistence of human and nature, presents his character’s journey with flora and fauna in the exhibition, Journey. It traces the fairytale journeys of trees and plants and allows the viewer to imagine different narratives with the keyword, the hybrid character. The exhibition is an interesting opportunity to reflect on our attitudes towards nature through Hirako’s proposed journey, and to reflect more actively on the ecology of plants and nature today.
Space K’ is Kolon group’s art and culture sharing space established in 2011. ‘Space K Seoul,’ which has expanded and opened in Magok-dong, Ganseo-gu, in September 2020, uses art to make unique social contributions, providing exhibition opportunities to new domestic and mid-level artists who deserve to be reappraised. In addition, ‘Space K Seoul’ strives to expand the base of contemporary art by continuously supporting artists to focus on their practice by holding exhibitions for foreign artists who are less known in Korea.
32, Magokjungang 8-ro, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Korea