Culver City’s Thinkspace debuted “Kioku No Hana” (“Flower of Memory”) by Fuco Ueda (Hi-Fructose Vol. 31 cover artist) last weekend, the gallery’s first exhibition with the Japanese artist known for her color-saturated paintings of girls and flora. The chrysanthemum flower, which symbolizes grief in Japanese culture, has a particular precedence in Ueda’s new paintings. “This flower is a powerful image for Japanese people,” she told Hi-fructose at the opening, “but it is delicate and requires a lot of support in order to grow. It cannot stand by itself and must be protected in the garden; it’s beautiful and weak.” Wrapping her similarly delicate female subjects in this type of flower also has personal meaning for Ueda. She paints girls in strong, bright colors, each channeling parts of herself she could not share otherwise.
Feelings of sadness and kinship shine through her relationship to the chrysanthemum by cutting, falling, or rising from its blossoms. Ueda acknowledges a close attachment to her paintings, “I admit, it’s difficult for me to let go of my work. I sprinkle water onto the piece once it is finished as a way of acknowledging this loss and marking its completion.” Two pieces, Bubble of Sea 1 and 2, are treated with burnt paper edges that represent the sad ending of The Little Mermaid. This handling of the material emphasizes the fragility of her work in a tangible way.
Perhaps the most telling image in the exhibition is also Ueda’s favorite, a small painting titled Hairdressing. This piece portrays a young girl bound tightly by a towel while freeing herself of hair accessories and flowers. The juxtaposition between confinement and freedom seems to represent Ueda’s unique perspective on the paradoxes of womanhood in today’s society. This theme of liberty is continued into the project room by the frenetic energy of “Seek My Fort” by South African artist Ryan Hewett. His portraits match Ueda’s in their confidence, where figures seep through impressionist gestures made by palette knife. “Kioku No Hana” by Fuco Ueda at Thinkspace Gallery exhibits March 29 through April 19, 2014.