11th May – 26th May 2017
by Sarah B
Yumemi Hiraki and Hilary Dodd went to art school together, share studio space and had an earlier joint exhibition. Their dynamic synergy enhances these works.
Hilary’s creations have a liminal quality where metaphysical meets subterranean. She disciplines herself to maintain a respectful distance, not imposing her personal reaction over the images.
At first glance one sees a bluestone wall guarding its inner secret. It is a “disembodied memory” salvaged from the soul. The works are a repository of suffering, confronting in their immediacy. Looking at them, I marvel at their emotional power given that their meaning is suggested in abstractions. Hilary manages to break an endless free fall and leaves one with hope.
To convey the emotional significance she experiences, Hilary works with materials that add depth and weight to her subject. She generally uses a sheet of plywood and attaches a brace to the back. Next, she stretches a fabric over the structure. Sometimes Hilary mutates the surface in some way by using fabric to create abstract forms. She then mixes cement, sand and oxides and applies the mixture to the surface. Her techniques have a transformative effect, imbuing her creations with emotion and extra meaning.
In a candid moment Hilary shared that she couldn’t keep her inner world under wraps. She explained her work “often reflects internal anxieties” with “a sense of ambiance and isolation.” She revealed her greatest fear is “an accelerated plunge into uncontrolled damage.”
She is prepared to explore pain because she believes “happiness cannot be truly felt without having experienced pain.” Hilary allows the strident chaos to emerge but then channels it towards a countervailing “solace.” She succeeds by adhering to the truth without any overlay of sentimentality.
Hilary confronts grief directly while Yumemi has a more muted response. Her restraint paradoxically heightens the power of her images.
Both artists embrace the concept of wholeness in their creative work but approach it in different ways. Yumemi has an oblique take on the subject. She gently leads the viewer to appreciate what emotional integrity means.
Yumemi’s tranquil ceramic pieces put one in a meditative state. Something is deeply healing about her work. Delicately balanced, it is a reminder of how nature achieves equilibrium. There is a lesson here. An organic life form such as a mushroom manages to survive without conflict and remains sustainable. To her it is an example of triumphant renewal. The tiny figures look fragile but resolute; they know the blueprint for peaceful coexistence.
Yumemi’s “eerie creatures” are intriguing because of their ambiguity. She sees them as mushrooms and cities in turn: “The image with the long thin cracks actually reminds me of my home town, Hiroshima. It’s a huge city with seven rivers flowing through it.” Yumemi uses paint in a way that suggests life force. Some ceramic pieces are painted on the inside, as if they are fortified from within.
Breakages and cracks are a compelling theme in her work. Speaking of the broken figures, Yumemi said: “I’m not sure everything broken can be fixed, but I think it’s a matter of how you view the specific breakage. The way broken ceramics are mended with gold (kintsugi) means the breakage is part of the object’s history and this adds beauty and value to that particular object.”
She explained how organisms such as corals and mushrooms “derive sustenance from decaying material, could become a source of decay themselves and may also live in symbiosis with the host.” She considers them “off-putting” yet “interesting” and her highly developed artistic sensibility sees them as “somehow poetic.”
It is uncanny how soothing objects can be when created by someone with Yumemi’s vision and sensitivity. Her poignant pieces have an invisible bond. They seem to arrange themselves in considerate patterns, standing at just the right distance. Their body language is evocative of trust and harmony.
It takes courage to make a work of art, taking a risk in case some people do not understand. So much easier to just choose the well-worn pleasing path that does not engage or challenge. Yumemi’s work is low-key, while Hilary’s has explosive energy and passion, yet both will leave an echo long after the exhibition.
Art has the capacity to help us transcend our everyday lives and see the world anew. This exhibition testifies to the emotional depth of the artists who go beyond the surface and uncover profound insights. The works claim there is resolution beyond pain resulting in inner peace and outer accord, all the more precious because of the struggle it takes to attain them.
Sarah is an aspiring curator who can relate to artists’ struggles to turn their vision into reality. She appreciates a wide range of artistic disciplines and feels passionate about promoting the work of emerging artists.