Yusuke Asai doesn’t use store bought materials to create his murals. Instead, he sources pigments found in local mud and sand, producing, what could very well be, the truest “site-specific” mural. We’ve followed him around the world – India, Tibet, Japan – where he’s created intricate, nature-inspired murals not only on the walls of galleries but in classrooms too. Now, for the first time, Asai’s work is on display at a gallery in the US: at Rice Gallery in Houston, Texas.
Working with a team of assistants, Asai worked day and night – “sometimes working from 10 am to 3 or 5 in the morning” – for just under two weeks. He covered the walls and floors of the gallery with pigment made from soil that was collected locally. The final mural, titled “yamatane” (mountain seed), is a detailed world of dense landscape and imaginary creatures; “a living universe and ecosystem,” in Asai’s own words.
“Dirt is by nature very different than materials sold in art stores,” says Asai, explaining why he chooses to work the way he does. “Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and micro organisms. It is a ‘living’ medium.”
“Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and micro organisms. It is a ‘living’ medium.”
Yusuke Asai’s “yamatane” will be on view through November 23, 2014, at which point it will be washed away. But Asai accepts the ephemeral nature of dirt as medium. In fact, he embraces it: “Once dry, paint cannot be wiped away, but with the addition of water dirt can be removed from a surface,” he explains. “There is a desire for artwork to be permanent, but to try and keep it forever would mean that my painting would become unnatural. When I erase the painting it is sad, but within the context of the natural world, everything is temporary.”