Fuco Ueda’s paintings lull viewers into a dream state. Characters float as if untethered by gravity, pillowy clouds and mist cast an air of mystery, and strange animals live alongside human companions. But just like the unconscious mind does in dreams, things often turn dark. Fires and shocks of lightning suggest danger, and the characters’ expressions are aloof and unmoored.
On her canvases, soft colors are delicately blended; dainty nightgowns are the preferred attire, and velvety textures envelop each scene. This is all contrasted with bloodshot eyes, threatening storms, and exposed skeletons. The mood is never outright angry, but there’s always a disturbing element lurking just below the calm surface.
Ueda has been fine-tuning her art for the past 20 years. She paints with acrylic paints and Japanese pigments on paper or canvas, which are then encased in a glassy, reflective resin. In person, her work is so deeply glazed it’s reflective, but that’s a quality that unfortunately doesn’t translate through photos. After applying the resin, she drips paint onto it as it dries, adding more texture and swirling colors. This final step in her process is an act largely out of her control, which is precisely the intent. She says she’s tapping into the concept of surrealist automatism—using her body’s unplanned movements to achieve designs she couldn’t otherwise. It’s a bridging of the conscious and subconscious through process, much like her subject matters. “My work is a fantasy, but it definitely corresponds with reality,” Ueda says. “The unconscious dream world touches the folds of the heart and can expand the imagination of human beings. It’s a place that lies between the subtleties of fiction and reality.”
在过去 20 年里，上田一直在打磨自己的作品。她采用丙烯酸颜料和日式颜料，选取纸面或帆布来作为媒介，然后装裱于玻璃般的反光树脂中。她的作品实物看起来就如同上了釉一般光滑，会折射出令人眼前一亮的光芒，但很遗憾，拍摄成照片后就往往无法传达出这一特点。在涂上树脂层、表面干燥了以后，她会再在上面滴颜料，增添画面的层次质感和颜色旋涡。最后的一步，是刻意地抑制自己有意识的控制。她解释说自己正在探索超现实主义自动化（surrealist automatism）的创作概念，利用身体的无意识动作，来呈现她原本无法做到的效果。在这个过程中，将意识与潜意识相联系，就好似她笔下的人物所呈现出来的状态那样。
Much of her paintings are initially inspired by real places and experiences. Although the 42-year-old artist has lived in Tokyo since her university days, her countryside hometown in Tochigi prefecture plays an outsized role in her creations. She grew up surrounded by nature and animals, and it shows in her art. The area also has one of the highest rates of lightning storms in the country, something that’s also left an indelible impression on her. Thunderbolts strike often in her paintings, appearing as violent streaks of amber and peach across expanses of teal and violet.
上田大部分画作的灵感最初都来源于现实环境和经历。尽管这位 42 岁的艺术家从上大学以来就一直住在东京，但她的家乡枥木县对她的创作也有着深远影响。从小在大自然和动物的包围下长大的她，在作品中体现了出来。枥木县也是日本雷暴最频繁的地区之一，这给她留下了不可磨灭的印象。她经常在画中描绘雷电，在蓝绿色和紫罗兰色背景上，把雷电演绎为闪耀的琥珀色和桃红色条纹。
The elements rule Ueda’s world. The destruction and purification of fire, the elusive freedom of water, the vitality of air, and the fertility of earth. The women in her paintings often seem lost, adrift in the vastness of the natural world. They lay listless in shallow eddies or become swallowed by an endless fog. But she always aspires to conjure a sense of hope. One new series is called Tomoshibi, which in Japanese means a light that lives in the heart. A grain of hope.
There’s an innocence to Ueda’s characters, revealed by their poses and expressions. Ueda hopes that people will use these characters as a judgeless mirror to reflect on themselves, both of what they’re aware of and what they might not be: “I believe that people desire art in order to come face to face with their hidden selves.”