The epiphany in Narvik
Yuko worked as a weaver and made tapestries when she was in her 20's. She always loved that discipline and even studied it at Kyoto University of Art. It was at an exhibition in Kyoto in the 1980s that Yuko first experienced Northern European Tapestry made during the 14th to 16th century. And she fell in love completely. She wanted to know more about Nordic art and decided - at 27 years old – to go backpacking in the North for the first time. She visited Finland, Sweden, Denmark and eventually came to Norway, where she traveled along the fjords up to a place called Narvik. The visit there was a sensational experience for Yuko. The water, the wind, the atmosphere, the air and the mountains - the surroundings made such an impact on her senses that she had to stop just to take it all in.
– I think you can call it an epiphany. It felt like I had been there before. I started crying and felt really small. The surroundings made me feel so many things at once, and I thought: this is what I want to express with my art! How can I recreate this feeling, and make other people feel it too? Yuko says.
Once she got back to Japan, Yuko started to experiment with different textures, materials and methods. As she had been working with paper since she was a child, it was natural that this was the material she ended up using. She wanted an easy-to-use material with many possibilities and, importantly, one that she could make three dimensional. She also wanted the light to flow through the artwork in a certain way, so she tried traditional Japanese rice paper at first, only to discover it only let light through when it was wet. 1986 was the year Yuko first came across tracing paper, and she has been using it ever since.
– I tried out a lot of different things. I made small triangles, cubes and circles and then sewed them together with a fish line in order to make something three-dimensional. Back then, I could only make simple figures, but now, I can make complicated things that, for example, look like a triangle from one side and a globe from the other. I’ve worked with tracing paper for over 30 years - and my skills have definitely developed over time, Yuko says.
"My goal is that my art should make people calm and relaxed, give them peace and heal their hearts."
The healing power of art
Yuko moved to Denmark in 1996, when she met and fell in love with a Danish man. He worked with art exhibitions and helped Yuko show some of her art in different contexts. Yuko’s paper constellations are quite big, and often hang from the ceiling. Once, an old lady rolled up in her wheelchair and sat right under one of the artworks. Later, a security guard came up to her and asked her if she enjoyed the piece.
– It wasn’t a big age difference between them, but she still said: “Young man, when I see this it feels like I have wings and that I just could fly away from here.” That really moved me, and the story actually ended up in the local newspaper. I realized that my art has the power to make people feel - and this story was confirmation of that, Yuko says.
On another occasion, a deaf and blind man touched one of Yuko’s artworks, and his whole face lit up with a big smile and an extraordinary joy spread around the room. For Yuko, this became a starting point for figuring out which locations her artwork was best suited to. She decided she wanted to make art for hospitals.
– My goal is that my art should make people calm and relaxed, give them peace and heal their hearts. It’s hard to work as a paper artist because very few people want to buy paper art, but if I get confirmation in the shape of people’s happiness, then I don’t need anything else, Yuko says.