Mayumi Terada builds and then photographs intimate domestic miniature sets she calls dollhouses. Devoid, though suggestive of human presence, these eerily beautiful monochrome prints caught DECO’s attention and we wanted to learn more.
Terada, a Japanese artist based in New York, took the time to share with DECO a little more about her work process and background. Her subject matter ultimately is light – the play of light in sparsely fashioned dollhouse interiors constructed from foam-core, cardboard, paper, fabrics and metals. The end result is hand-printed monochrome photographs rather than the actual constructed sets themselves.
Your work in 5 words… Living absence in bright room.
Greatest accomplishment yet? Finishing and abandoning my work. Art is process, not product.
Early creative influences…Japanese literature and French philosophy.
A black & white print is…curving lights and shadow.
Who or what has influenced your work most? The people closest to me.
A key element/s in creating a memorable image is…Space.
Your images seem to have such a poetic quality to them. Robert Frank said ‘The Eye should learn to listen before it looks’. What do you want people to hear when they see your work? I hope that audience would hear their own story to see my work.
Your thoughts on growing up in Japan and how it influences your work? I was raised in Japanese culture and I respect its sophisticated aesthetics. For example Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki wrote about the beauty of light and shadow of the bean jelly in a lacquer container placed in the dark or the white rice in a black lacquer container in his “Praise of Shadows”. And one more example, in Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) Kougetudai, Ginshadan (Sea of Silver Sand) is designed for the reflection of moonlight in a glittering array.
How does living in New York influence your work? New York is a crossroads of the art of many different cultures. It is exciting to see that sort of fusion and the resulting work. But I myself don’t expect to be influenced by other artists. I am one of thousands of artists in New York, a small fish in a large pond.
Favourite places in NY? Metropolitan Museum and Central Park.
How has your style changed over the years? Before photography I made sculptures. I wanted to make “photographic sculptures” using transparent plastic sheets. The idea for “photographic sculpture” came from an admiration for photography, but that admiration also created a distance in me from photography itself. Then, since 2001 I started photography. I have been working between sculpture and photography.
Best response you’ve had to your works? Sales.
What is your work process like? Models for photography can be an effective way to make a personal subject universal. Making art is communication driven by the desire to share a sense with others, one that cannot be verbalized, the sense achieved by the visual image. In sharing this sense with others, everyday motifs are quite effective. I chose the bathtub, the sofa, the sink, and the shower as motifs, one by one, creating photographs of these universally recognized objects and capturing the light cast in the spaces they occupy — by restructuring the light in the bright room.
Even in tiny rooms of paper and foam board, the sunlight shining through the window creates shadows and colors the air, as it does in actual rooms or outdoor locations. Even in the tiniest places, light flows evenly. The light in the rain, the light through the clouds, the light in sunny weather and the light of the moon are projected into these tiny spaces. Temperature and humidity enter the cells of light and are projected. Wind too enters evenly.
When I try to take pictures of the furniture or objects in the models, it doesn’t often go as planned. If I try to shoot the light that is there, however, I can get the image I want.
Current artists work you admire…Kevin Bartelme.
Said Oscar Wilde: Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life – what is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. Your thoughts? I don’t understand what Oscar Wilde means. I think art is a part of life. He does have a pretty cool tomb in Paris though.
What would you tell your younger self, knowing what you know now? Don’t do it!
LEARN MORE ABOUT MAYUMI TERADA:
Represented by : ROBERT MILLER GALLERY
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