Yuko Mizobuchi is a “neo-primitive” Japanese artist who believes that the role of art is to revert to a “neutral” state within the human condition. This has led her to open the BrainBrunnGALLERY in Tokyo – a space built around freedom of imagination, where viewers are encouraged to have primitive, innate responses to art, unrestricted by the uniformity of white wall galleries.
A: Why do you refer to your work as “neo-primitive”?
YM: The style of my work is that I dig into my psychology and create a concrete form without having to draft it. People all over the world have seen my work and said that each one reminded them of the style of the ancient civilisations in their country. From what they said, I am convinced that mankind is connected. And I am convinced that all of us, including myself, have the same genetic information and memory buried deep inside.
I think it is the memory of human genes that have been sleeping since ancient times. Neoprimitives are activities that bring back the precious senses and imagination of all mankind. In this age of information abundance, I feel that human intuition and imagination have become dull and feel that such a lack of imagination threatens world peace.
A: How do you select the materials, colours and subject matter for each of your works?
YM: Only materials suitable for the expression are selected and used. Oil-based pens, Japanese sumi, colour inks, Japanese painting pigments, etc. Those materials will change as my image changes.
A: You mentioned that a lack of imagination is a threat to peace – what do you mean by this?
YM: I think people in modern society are demanding too much via hasty explanations and understanding. I think imagination is not about superficial thinking, but about the ability to really feel. It is important to understand one thing from many aspects.
I also feel how things move in relation to them; to not only think but to feel. Then you will realise how small your life is, and you will be ashamed of your arrogance. If you think in that way, there will be almost no reason to fight. Unfortunately, conflicts are constant, but we should feel the reaction more.
A: Tell me about “mind brain” and “logical brain” and how these have helped lead you to “brain brunn”.
YM: The “mind brain” is what we perceive through our thoughts, intentions and sensibility. We think of perception based on concepts and knowledge as “logical brain”. In plants, sunlight and water are “mindbrains”. Nutrition and agrichemicals in the soil can be called “logical brain”. Plants can’t live without sunlight. Human beings also need something in the same way. Balance is important. Beyond that, there is Brainbrunn. Brunn means “tremble” in Japanese onomatopoeia.
A: What led you to open your own gallery, BrainBrunnGALLERY?
YM: I felt the tightness of belonging to a group and the tightness of being a writer. In the end, I thought that in order to stick to my beliefs and continue my activities as a writer, I should create a place and group for my presentation.
Starting my own gallery was my parents’ wish. But four years ago, I suddenly lost my parents in a car accident, so I had a strong will to “Make this dream come true!” and had been doing it up until now with parents’ wishes in my heart. Therefore, this opening is truly our delight.
A: You refer to it as a “hyperspace gallery” – what do you mean by this?
YM: In order to make visitors forget the definition of time in the gallery, various ideas are put into it. I named it Hyperspace because I wanted customers to understand that image.
A: How the architectural design of the gallery reflect your vision for it?
YM: The architectural design aimed for a space composed of the curves of natural beauty that existed since the primitive period, red and black, the exquisite light of the sun, and the harmony with industrial civilisation. I spoke to the builders again and again about the concept and visuals of the gallery, and they brought the ideas to life. I hope that the works of many artists will shine through the gallery exhibition.
A: How long did the process take, from the initial idea to the opening night?
YM: In the end, it took about eight years. There were so many things that I could write my autobiography.
But now I feel like I’m just starting. The world is now suffering from coronavirus, but I would like to think ahead and am looking beyond that.
A: What is the significance of the colour red in the gallery?
YM: It’s the main colour in the gallery. Red is the colour of blood and soil. It means life and human life.
In Japan, red also means “colour of protection against evil”.
A: How do you find being a curator? What aspects of the role do you find appealing? What are the challenges of this role?
YM: My most important role as a curator is to bring out the best in the works of the artist’s exhibition to the best of my ability. I work with writers who agree with my principles, but I’m sure there are more writers with the same feeling not only in Japan but also in the world. We will plan a public exhibition after the pandemic is over. Eventually, I would like to bring my work to you with wonderful artists from all over the world.
A: Tell me about the Brunn! exhibition.
YM: It was a great success. We exhibited everything from past works to new works at the gallery opening. The visitors really enjoyed it. After I finished watching the work, I saw a wonderful smile on my face and the sparkle in my eyes looked different. Seeing such people, I thought it was really good to hold a private exhibition. It was such a personal exhibition that I really want to keep drawing works that made me feel “Brunn!” shaking the mind brain.
A: Do you think that you’ll collaborate with the other artists in the gallery?
YM: I have no particular ideas about that at the moment.
A: What is a typical day like for you?
YM: Behind my studio is a forest, so I wake up with the morning sun with the chirping of wild birds and the voice of my family’s cat. After I finish all the housework, I paint to make a work until sunset. When the sun goes down, the production for that day is finished; I try to relax and keep my mind as stable as possible.
A: How has your schedule changed since opening the gallery?
YM: I spend the rest of my time on gallery work, but it can be challenging. We spend our days with the support of various professionals.
A: What does the rest of 2021 look like for your art practice?
YM: At any rate, I want to make new work as soon as possible. We also plan to promote activities overseas, such as art fairs. I can only hope that the pandemic around the world will settle down soon.
Images: all images are courtesy of the artist.
The work of Yuko Mizobuchi appears in the Artists’ Directory in Issue 100 of Aesthetica. Click here to visit our online shop.