“G’Day Yutaka. How’s it goin?” “It’s very cold where I live. When I woke up my banana was frozen.” Yutaka was living in the Domagkstrasse Kaserne, Munich. The heating was broken. It was winter. That was in 1996 when we first met.
Then there was the chook incident. We were cooking chooks in the ground for a party. Also in winter. We were on the turps and raged into the early hours. Yutaka’s behaviour on that evening was chivalrous and eternally endearing. It’s a long story but he did become the best man.
Later sitting next to him in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in the small studio we shared, I was working away and Yutaka quietly said “pocket rocket”. I was a bit taken-a-back and then I saw he had discovered a little book of Australian slang and was searching for useful phrases.
For a show at Gallery Funaki he was trying to nut out an exhibition title. I suggested “Got Wood” but he wouldn’t be in it – too raunchy. However Yutaka does have wood. Lots of wood; beautiful, rare and exotic, antique and sometimes given as gifts from far corners of the world. We have accompanied him to Japan on wood hunting shopping adventures, and now a collection on a perfect shelf is in the centre of our studio space.
We have worked alongside each other for 20 years sharing tools and stories. Sometimes we dream about starting up a corner shop where we can offer a decent sanger and flog off our collectables, to make space to buy more crap. You just never know.
We both collect stuff. Not necessarily for our work but because of our love of old stuff and its material qualities. In Yutaka’s work there is a carefully selected materiality. Tricky materials too, often carrying with them a remarkable history, wether in the form of an antique wooden ball or the tusk of a long extinct mammal, dragged from the Siberian ice. Tricky also as names veil their true nature, “Pink Ivory” actually a wood, “Ivory” actually coming from a woolly mammoth. Then their strange behaviour, wood and tusk that twists and folds and flows around the finger, fine materials happily behaving in unusual ways. The approach is direct, no drawings or models before hand. Its hard yakka. Not talking and giving commands, but listening carefully to find the curvaceous path which will allow the rings then to speak, to tell. Only when the piece is finished is the decision is made wether it made the grade, otherwise works get chucked in the “Elephants Grave Yard”, the title of the draw of bodgy jobs. The rip-snorters though are legendry: pigs nose, mouth, arse, crap – not daggy themes, but not lairy either. Like the man himself, a dinki-di Japanese, always surprizing and mysterious.
Sometimes we worry that our exotic companion is going to shoot through. He goes walkabout for weeks, then he rolls up with a prezzy, swipes a bit of dust off his table, strums on his guitar and gets on with it. You can’t be cranky. It just how he is, never whinging or spitting the dummy, although once or twice when he’s hit the piss, he’s been know to be ropeable. And for good reason.
Bloody Larrikin. It’s a pleasure to know you mate. You’re a fuckin’ legend.
Helen Britton 2017 Catalogue text, Förder Preis Katalog, Munich, Germany