At 20 paces, they look like photographs, at 10 paces you feel as though they are portals to scenes that you could step into. Up really close you are stunned to realize that they are embroidered works of art. They are unique and beautiful.
35 of these works by Yoko Demura’s were recently organized by Artrates and exhibited at Jadite Gallery in New York.
Demura recreates contemporary scenes of old Japan. Born in Osaka, she grew up in a region of Japan that effectively manages the juxtaposition of ancient history and modern-day life. She captures the very Japanese essence of not preserving the old but maintaining the history of Japan into the present day. The images are of historically and culturally valued buildings, streets and the countryside of Japan.
Several of her pieces are of Kumamoto Castle, originally built in 1607, a very popular tourist destination, before it was damaged in an earthquake in 2016. The castle is now closed to the public while it undergoes repairs which are currently estimated to take 20 years. Her pieces have captured the elegance and majesty of this historic site with its towering stone walls. At the other end of the spectrum, is a work depicting a casual local restaurant built straddling a river allowing guests to enjoy the cooling air from the river to ease the heat of a mid-summer’s day.
Her technique is immaculate, having been perfected over 40 years. The work is unlike anything you have ever seen, as she and her students are the only artists who practice this form of unsecured looped needlework. Starting with a personally shot photograph of each location, she recreates the image using not only the 400 or so commercially available rayon thread colors but 176 colors that she dyes herself. This vast range of colors allows her to achieve a high degree of realism.
This technique enables her to build texture into each piece and in conjunction with the variety of colors she uses, allows her to imbue each piece with a palpable atmosphere, unique to each location. Reviewing the works, Jeannie McCormack of Gallery & Studio was reminded of some of Van Gogh’s cloudy skies; a testament to Demura’s in-depth study of some of the world’s great painters. Her physical experience of each scene, when she takes the photo, also adds a viewpoint that comes across as very personal and intimate.
Each piece of Demura’s work is a microcosm of the best of Japan brought to life and welcomes the viewer to enjoy the hospitality of both the country and the artist.
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