In Conversation with Yuria Okamura

    We are thrilled to welcome emerging artist Yuria Okamura to the Convent as part of Studio Start-up 2016. Now in its fourth year, the Convent’s Studio Start-up offers two recent visual arts graduates a studio space rent-free for six months. Having recently completed a Master of Fine Arts (VCA), which culminated in an impressive 31-metre drawing installation, Yuria moved into her new space just in time for the new year. We popped by her studio to see how her first month has been and to discover more about her intricate work.

    Can you tell me about your practice?
    I think of it as a sort of expanded drawing practice. My work begins with works on paper and incorporates wall drawing to create immersive installations that occupy spaces. My work is predominantly geometric, as I draw from the symbolic quality of geometric forms and patterns that has been deployed to construct and embody beliefs and knowledge in various cultures. I am particularly interested in the utopian implications of geometric symbolism, which seems universal, and how it might aid in visualising connectivity and harmony.

    What mediums do you predominantly work with?
    Drawing and painting using ink, acrylic, watercolour, colour pencil and embossing.

    You recently completed a Master of Fine Arts – Visual Art at VCA where you explored cosmology and subjectivity through geometric symbols. Can you tell me a bit about your research?
    My research project began with exploring how geometric symbolism has been used in various systems of belief and knowledge across cultures and throughout history to represent their respective worldviews. These included early scientific illustration, esoteric symbolism, religious architecture and decoration, and early 20th-century abstract painting. While building on their utopian ideals, I found that these conventional modes of representation were often dogmatic, hierarchical, and divisive. So my research project questioned how it might be possible for contemporary geometric drawing to envision a more inclusive, holistic, and expansive worldview that is open to subjective interpretations.

    How was this explored in your graduate exhibition?
    For the graduation exhibition, I presented a 31-metre drawing installation that included five large works on paper and architectural drawing applied directly on the wall. As the culmination of my research project, this work conflated geometric forms derived from diverse religious, scientific and esoteric traditions into a new whole through deploying cartography, architecture and gardens as unifying visual metaphors and motifs. Visualising a garden-like utopian space, I hope that my work can operate as a connective and open-ended contemplative space that invites and harmoniously integrates diverse translations from the world around us.

    What do you like most about having a studio at the Convent?
    I love being here for so many reasons! But if I must choose, I would say the beautiful historic buildings and the gardens. It seems fitting as my work incorporates gardens and architecture as both visual motifs and metaphors.

    What are you working on at the moment?
    I am continuing to develop the ideas that I started to explore in my master's project. I am currently sketching out a range of plan drawings for large-scale works on paper and wall installations. I am excited to further explore the idea of the garden and how this might aid in spatialising drawings and how spatiality, in turn, might extend abstract drawing's potential to invite contemplation.

    Do you have any exciting projects coming up in 2016?
    I will be in a group show at Rubicon ARI in mid-late March and hopefully a solo show too, but dates and location are to be confirmed. I am actually looking forward to making work at my own pace in the beautiful studio here at the Convent!
    Follow Yuria on Instagram