Children's Art Connoisseur Yozo Ukita and His Art Studio "Studio Ukita"

A project evolving the digitized archive of the book, “GUTAI STILL ALIVE 2015 vol.1”. The 32nd edition focuses on Yozo Ukita, an artist who also worked as the editor of the children's poetry magazine "Kirin" that had deep ties with Gutai. Ukita first started creating art after meeting Jiro Yoshihara, but stopped after leaving Gutai. After a 20-year hiatus, he resumed his art practice at age 60, and also opened an art studio called "Studio Ukita ". Toshiko Morikawa, a member of Studio Ukita , talks about Ukita's work in the studio.

What was Studio Ukita like?

Toshiko Morikawa
Former Studio Ukita Member

In the studio there were all sorts of people with disabilities and various difficulties who gathered together. Ukita always took care to see how we were living and always lent his ear. Even when we were facing chaos and trouble he would look over us and encourage us with an affectionate eye. He really enjoyed our direct honest expressions filled with emotion and he would praise our work with comments like “That’s really impressive. Great!” and we learnt from this. He never told us to paint something “well” or for the purpose of selling. If we tried to make something like that he would soon tell us it was no good. Ukita would stress that the very questioning of what it means to be human, to examine what we ourselves are, is the very work of humans. He always emphasized the importance of truth and taking up these words we would continue to make our work.

In the studio we used old wooden desks and chairs from an old school and employed all sorts of materials in making our work from discarded dungarees and cardboard, to fragments of paper and wood taken from the kindergarten, using all these waste materials to make something new. And in this way we treasured the breath of life. Ukita would say “It is important to polish your sensibility through the everyday”. I felt as if making work, carrying out everyday life, the very act of living were all connected. The studio was a place of dialogue, a dialogue with things, dialogue with art work, dialogue with one’s self, dialogue with others, it was full of these conversations.

If you went to the studio you would always encounter Ukita’s warm smile and booming voice filled with humor and energy. He was a man of great heart. For me Studio Ukita was a place where I could be free, a place where I could be myself. I will never forget Ukita’s strength of warmth towards people and his strictness towards art work. The studio was a place to learn about the way of life through the production of art. Ukita loved this studio and 6 months before his death he said he wanted to make this place a space where people could easily come and encounter contemporary art and made preparations towards the exhibition of work by the students with a hope that the studio would continue even after his death.

(Mothly Gallery, May 2014)

Read more about the “Gutai Art Association »

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