Posts tagged Shapes
Renewed Sense of Wonder: Interview with Yuria Okamura

Yuria Okamura's art practice focuses on geometric drawing on both paper and walls. She collects, rearranges and transforms abstract symbols of various cultural and religious traditions. In this way, her work brings together and reinterprets various idealities from across cultures and histories in the hope of invoking a renewed sense of wonder into our contemporary worldview.

She maps and reconfigures geometric patterns and symbols that reference esoteric symbolism, occult diagrams, religious architecture and decoration, and spiritualist abstract painting through the use of diagrammatic aesthetics. By doing so, she examines the implications of harmonic ideals that seem to be universally embedded in the orderliness of geometry, and how such ideas might be reinterpreted in the new interrelated compositions. Yuria also deploys wall drawing to unify the diverse geometric forms and to create immersive drawing installations through the use of architecture and gardens as visual metaphors. By incorporating spatiality in this way, she explores abstract drawings' potential to operate as open-ended contemplative spaces for reimagining possibilities of metaphysical harmony and connectivity. 

Yuria is a Melbourne-based artist whose drawing practice explores harmonic ideals through the use of geometry and diagrammatic aesthetics. She has completed Master of Fine Arts (Research) at the Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne in 2015, and Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in 2010 at RMIT University. In 2016, Yuria was selected for Abbotsford Convent Studio Start-up Residency and Bayside City Council Residency. She has received a number of awards and scholarships, including Stuart Black Memorial Travelling Scholarship, Ursula Hoff Institute Drawing Award, Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award, RMIT Honours Travelling Endowment Scholarship, RMIT Siemens Fine Art Scholarship, and Facetnate Visual Art Grant. Yuria has been showing her work in solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including C3 Contemporary Art Space(Melbourne), Anna Pappas Gallery(Melbourne), Five Walls (Melbourne), Rubicon ARI (Melbourne), Kunstraum Tapir (Berlin, Germany), Langford 120 (Melbourne), Seventh Gallery (Melbourne), Japan Foundation Gallery (Sydney), and Mølla På Grim (Kristiansand, Norway).


Tell me about yourself and your creative background.

I am a visual artist based in Melbourne, Australia. My drawing practice, which includes works on paper and immersive wall drawings, explores harmonic ideals through the language of geometry and diagrammatic aesthetics. I'm interested in different beliefs and worldviews, and I map these out to try to make sense of it all by a visual means, I suppose, through a kind of aesthetic logic. I bring together and reconfigure geometric patterns and symbols that reference esoteric symbolism, occult diagrams, religious architecture and decoration, and spiritualist abstract painting. I examine the symbolic implications of harmonic ideas that seem to be universally embedded in the orderliness of geometry, and how such ideas might be reinterpreted in the new interrelated compositions. Abstract visual language can be interpreted in so many different ways, and through this quality, I hope my work can operate as open-ended maps or contemplative spaces for reimagining possibilities of metaphysical harmony.


When did you start integrating the geometric patterns and symbols into your work? What inspired your most recent series?

I started using geometric patterns in my final year of BFA and really focused on it for my MFA, which I completed in 2015. My last body of work resulted from a research trip to Morocco and Southern Spain. I looked at Moorish architecture and ornamentation with a particular focus on mosques, and how geometric structures and designs embody the idea of interconnectedness and harmony in this cultural context.

My inclination to bring together diverse visions in my work from across cultures is, I think, influenced by my own experiences: migrating from Japan to Australia, and also traveling to Indonesia, India, Morocco and all over Europe. Having an appreciation for different cultures, and at the same time finding commonalities amongst the diverse worldviews expressed through visual language, has led me to engage with the universality of geometric forms.


Your work is beautiful, delicate and extremely detailed. Share a little bit about your process with us. How do you prepare for each work and what goes into making each piece?

It begins with collecting source images. I'm constantly adding to my library of esoteric illustrations, early scientific diagrams, religious architecture and decoration, and abstract artworks. I extract shapes and patterns from these, modify and combine them to create new compositions. First, just with free-hand drawing, and once I'm happy with the composition, I make a proper draft on graph paper. I then trace the outlines through embossing onto the watercolor paper and start drawing lines and adding color. These drawings are often installed together with wall drawing, which is aimed at spatializing the work to create an immersive and contemplative quality. This aspect is inspired by a variety of religious architecture and gardens. The religious architecture provides a space for imagining immaterial possibilities, and gardens across cultures embody the idea of a paradise: an earthly site of harmony. In particular, Japanese gardens together with its architectural structures are intended to be mediating spaces where natural and metaphysical, or material and immaterial elements come together. Similarly, I hope my work can visualize a contemplative space for integrating inner and outer realities.


What do you do when you feel stuck or frustrated? How do you get out of a creative slump?

If something is not working in the studio and I feel frustrated, I allow myself a short break to go for a walk or do some gardening. But then I usually get straight back into the studio because it's impossible for me to relax or think about anything else until I figure out what to do! Sometimes this means scrapping the work and starting again.

Fortunately, I haven't had a creative slump for a long time. I think it's because I've gotten into the habit of going into the studio every day (unless I have other commitments) even if I don't know what I'm going to do. Even when I feel uninspired, I force myself to get into the studio and at least think about my practice by looking at pictures, sketching, reading or writing. I don't believe in just waiting for inspiration. It does occasionally come to me out of the blue, but for the most part, I consciously search for it through practice.


What is a typical day like for you and how do you find a balance between art and personal life?

I try to exercise a little and get my errands and admin tasks done in the morning, spend all afternoon in the studio, have a dinner break and back in the studio for an evening session. But in reality, every day is different. Sometimes I have to spend all day running errands, writing applications, or working at a part-time job, and I'd enjoy a relaxing evening with my partner, family, and friends a few times a week.

What I experience in my personal life feeds into my art practice and vice versa in a constant loop, so I like to think of them as one and the same. For example, travel is an integral part of my art practice: every trip inspires a new body of work, and my practice, in turn, drives me to seek a new adventure. I also love being in nature, spending time with family and friends, reading books and listening to podcasts, all of which I used to neglect because I thought I had to focus solely on art. I still tend to overwork, but I'm aware now that my creative energy gets depleted if I lock myself in the studio for too long and it needs to be reinvigorated by experiencing the world.


What are you currently working on and what should we be on the lookout for?

I'm working on a new body of works on paper inspired by my trip to the U.S last year. It is a continuation of my diagrammatic, geometric drawing practice but it references Native American sand paintings and tapestry. In this series, I considered how a kinship to the natural world can be expressed through geometric patterns and how geometric forms can have a symbolic function within rituals. I'm actually coming back to the U.S in March 2019 for a residency at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which I am very excited about! I'm planning to further develop the spatial component of my practice by examining MASS MoCA's extensive collection of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings.

Aly Morgan

Led purely by a natural sense of curiosity, Aly Morgan follows each spark of inspiration until it leads to a new discovery - either about herself, the world or her place within it. Although she prefers to work with acrylic paint and newsprint, inspiration has led her to try many unconventional materials in the journey of finding her creative voice. Her early works were heavily influenced by her days as a jewelry designer and were created using items such as wire, fine silver and found objects. Now specializing in hand painted and found paper collage, she works intuitively to create compelling combinations of shapes and color to convey stories of self-discovery. As a self-taught artist, she has explored expressing her ideas for many years using different mediums but has focused the last 6 months on unraveling her own personal definition of art. In doing so, she has created a large body of work that reflects not only her current inspirations but also explores themes such as womanhood, connection, and language. Her most recent series, Native Tongue, explores the relationship between an artist and what inspires them as well as celebrates the translation of that inspiration into one’s work. By using her literal inspirations to create abstract characters, she is continually building a language in which the forms are all at once familiar yet foreign, while challenging the viewer to seek their own interpretation.


Inspiration is everything to me. It is what motivates me, leads my creative process and ultimately, what nourishes my soul. A concept that is the cornerstone in creating my personal work is what I call “following the golden thread”. To me, it simply means following a spark of inspiration to see where it leads.

Having lived most of my life believing that art was simply paintings that hung in museums, it wasn’t until I was introduced to mixed-media art 12 years ago, that I learned differently. Once I discovered that art was not just for long ago masters to create, I was compelled to seek my own definition of what art could be.

I am fascinated by color and what it can convey. I am continuously exploring ways to combine color and shape in order to translate a thought or feeling into a recognizable form. While I continue to explore various techniques, I am most drawn to creating my own collage material using acrylic paint and newsprint. Although they are humble materials, they allow me to create endless combinations of colors and shapes.

I am most inspired by finding beauty in unexpected places, so while my work is unapologetically feminine in color and themes, it is also heavily influenced by my love of long forgotten and neglected objects. I feel my most compelling pieces are ones that marry color with organic texture and invite the viewer to seek their own interpretation.

Studio Sundays: Joey Slaughter

Slaughter earned his BFA from Memphis College of Art. He received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Upon graduating Cranbrook, Slaughter was awarded the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. He has received the Louisiana Division of the Arts Career Enhancement Grant, He has been published in New American Paintings magazine three times. This year he was nominated the Louisiana Prize from South Arts and received a the Sam and Adele Golden residency.  He is currently living in Ruston, LA, and is Associate Professor of Art at Louisiana Tech University.

Janet Puiyan Ma

Originally from Hong Kong, Janet (Pui Yan) Ma is an artist based in San Francisco, California. She is interested in multicultural ideologies and that is reflected in her early series of work. In May 2016, she completed her Bachelor's degree in Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, minoring in Art History with a concentration in Curatorial Studies.


I have always had an interest in colors and the nature of shapes. Fascinated by how different forms come together as whole and range of color hues, I together with my studies on Josef Albers' Interaction of Color and contemporary Minimalists, have tremendously helped me during my creative process.

Constantly exploring colors emotions and interactions, each piece is about evoking inner peace and cosmic consciousness, depending on the particular moment or state of mind. They are subtle and quiet; and I use matte finish and brilliant color combinations to visually represent the layers of life, webs of memories, and the complexities and reflections of my personal sentiments with people and nature. Through the process of making I am creating an embodied understanding of sensuality, vibrancy, and enchantment in colors as they radiate on the surface and with the surrounding.

In current series, I am inspired by the San Francisco landscapes and colors. Living in the northeast of the city, adjacent to Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf, have enabled me to continue exploring and mapping out my personal memories and narratives with a mix of urban subculture.

William H. Thielen 

William H. Thielen was born March 18, 1954 in Pierre, South Dakota, where he grew up. He did his undergraduate studies in painting at Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota where he received a B.S. in Art Education Comprehensive (Painting with minors in Fibers and Sculpture) in 1977. At that time he realized that in making his art he wanted a broader base from which to draw. Therefore, he enrolled in graduate school under M. Joan Lintault at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He received his M.F.A. in fibers in 1980.

Just after completion of his terminal degree, he was invited to be a multimedia panelist for Fibre-Form-Fusion, an international conference held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Shortly thereafter, in 1982, he received a visual artist fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

He has received purchase awards from the Evansville (Indiana) Museum of Art and Science in 1993 and the Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in 2002; and merit awards from the 31st Annual Quincy Show, Elizabeth Sinnock Gallery, Quincy, Illinois in 1981; the Alexandria Fine Arts Annual, Visual Art Center, Alexandria, Louisiana in 1982; the Self-Images show at the Associated Artist Gallery, Carbondale, Illinois in 1989; and the Evansville (Indiana) Museum of Art and Science in 2000.

In 1984 he was one of ten artists chosen to participate in the Interchange Program at the Banff Center for the Arts, Banff, Alberta, Canada. This international collection of emerging artists spent the summer studying with artists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including Francoise Grossen, Gary Trentham, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Mildred Constantine, Mariette Rousseau, Patterson Sims, and Judy Pfaff.

In 1984-85, Sandra McMorris Johnson and Mr. Thielen took top honors in the National Endowment for the Arts-funded Fiberworks Exhibition and Projects Competition in Berkeley, California. They were commissioned to mount a collaborative installation in their main gallery.


When creating pictorial or sculptural objects, it is risky to trust the intuitive nature of emotions and the intellectual information that comes from observation.

For me, the only way to overcome this risk is in the language of abstraction.

The process of abstraction is one of spontaneity, flexibility, and trusting the intuitive nature of the act. Also inherent is an emotional reaction and metaphorical reckoning on the part of the viewer. All of this helps to create a new visual language in which to address the issues behind the visual statement.

The issues behind my work are personal and autobiographical. I work with these issues because they are my attempt to find my own true identity in a divisive social structure. Maybe in a way I am trying to find a momentary calm while existing in a society that is full of hostility and hatred.

Kate McCarthy
Kate McCarthy lives and works from the Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s East Coast. She relies on the memories triggered by her young sons developing milestones for her imagery which then is transferred into the purest works of shapes, colour and intent, full of mix media and patterns.
Lee Musgrave
Lee Musgrave is the recipient of an American National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and his work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He specializes in abstract painting and photography. His paintings were featured in a major exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art last year, and he recently received several international awards for his abstract photography which was featured in the Berlin Foto Biennale in Berlin, Germany and in Novus Conceptum at the Hannah Burch Gallery, Houston, TX. Lee lives in High Prairie, Washington.


It is my habit to crush or cut up waste materials before discarding them and often I throw some of it onto a light pad in search for serendipitous “visual” surprises. If what I see holds my attention I photograph it. By chance among the objects on the pad the day the Fiddle Diddle Series was photographed were a rubber gasket, three different gauges of wire and several bits of plastic wrappers (including the red bean image). Seven days later, when I shot the Joyous Misbehavin’ images on the pad were parts of a child’s pinwheel, several broken objects including flower shaped hair clips, hors d’oeuvres picks, a bubble wand, plastic shot classes, spoons, and a knife as well as the rubber gasket and some of the assorted wrappers.

The light passing through and around these odd assortments of objects held them together in an engaging way and created a wonderful array of color tints and tones. I photographed each random grouping then shook the pad to see if the effect held in a new arrangement. It did, so I photographed them again and repeated that process several times… occasionally adding and or discarding objects as I proceeded… ending with these two enchanting series whose visual appeal transcends their social statement about our consumer-centric society and concentrates instead on the elegance found within the chaos.

The resulting photographs provide an opportunity for viewers to embrace unpredictability within an approach that values intuition and expressionism… where serendipitous encounters channel risk in the experience of observing and honoring the historic art principle of ‘taking advantage of chance.'

Cropping the photographs is my way of featuring their individual charisma and creating dynamic compositions of visual aesthetics. Further, I prefer a visual language that explores and refines the shallow picture plane and cropping accentuates that preference.

My objective is to place the viewer at the moment with each image; to suspend them between imagination and reality thereby suggesting the unseen: those elemental phenomena we live by like vim, verve, and oomph.

By selecting and isolating settings from their context, I pull images from reality into vernacular abstraction. In this way, the photographs explore the relationship between impartial objects and personal perception, focusing on the subtleties that produce multiple layers of experience.

Though my photography is considered abstract, it is completely realistic. I use realism as a medium – as a means to record my personal non-verbal responses to what I see before me and how immersion in it makes me feel whole. I am primarily a romantic who through selective cropping of realistic images reveals my personal inner world of mystical experiences.

The only computer processes applied to my photographs is the cleaning or cloning over of small distractive spots.

While chance runs counter to most people’s conceptions of art, it has been a vital component of it since its very beginning, and the images I capture are evocative of that history.

To me, the inescapable appeal of these images is immediate and expressive of spontaneous gestures that are based on insights gained from my many years of creating abstract work.

Most contemporary photography has been occupied with recurrent narrative, political and gender-based themes… and probably always will be. When it turns inward to express beauty and visual aesthetic pleasure it usually drifts toward surrealism and fantasy, but still well within the representational genre. At the root of those creative processes is the sixth sense of instinctive intellectual drive. It flashes before our eyes, holds us and pulls us in and says ‘don’t miss this.' That trice is what abstract photography is all about. It goes directly toward one's inner thoughts, makes us pause and takes us beyond provocation and coincidence to a visual epistle that transcends our fundamental understanding of life.

Tom Climent
Tom Climent is a painter based in Cork, Ireland.

He received a B.A in Fine Art in 1995 and a M.A by Research in 2011, both from the Crawford College of Art & Design.

He has exhibited extensively in Ireland. His work was recently selected for the juried exhibition The Retrieval of the Beautiful at The Painting Center in New York. In 2016 he showed as part of Irish Wave, a collaborative exhibition in Shanghai and Beijing and his work was also selected for the Oriel Davies Open 2016, an exhibition celebrating contemporary painting in all its diversity at The Oriel Davies Gallery in Wales.


My work over the last twenty years or so has varied from paintings of figurative, urban and landscape subjects, sometimes referencing the history of painting. My most recent work tends to focus on the creation of a structured space, while investigating the boundaries between abstraction and representation.

The paintings I’ve submitted here are focused around spatial constructs and how they might provide a structured space for our environment. Referencing landscape, various types of structures and natural phenomena, the compositions range from the visually complex to simple basic structures. By the manipulation of the materials, scale and weight of these structures, I try to obscure their basic properties and any identifiable purpose. The work touches on our relationship with the spatial, formal and emotional qualities of architecture. It suggests a narrative but never actually reveals what that might be.

The way I work is largely intuitive, painting for me starts a process of discovering unintended connections and relationships, of trying to searching for reason and meaning in each work that emerges. The first marks and structures create the environment for a process that requires me to constantly re-evaluate what’s important so I can find out what the painting will be. I feel as if I’m in a relationship with the painting, it guides me as much as I control it. This guiding influence contains beauty, and it is as much about a search to find an expression of it in the work.