Yuki Horiki

Life Vessel

What Yuki Horiki claims is an absence of language (a knowledge of English) has become the force driving this artist to paint communiques from an inner world. Horiki's steady appearance in group shows over the last five years, most notably in No Piece of Cake (Cairns Regional Gallery, 1995) has been a progressive exposition of her painterly language. Now, the eloquence of formal Renaissance stillness is her strongest pictorial device, translating the humanistic affinities of her work into emblematic female forms.

Horiki's delicately rendered figures signify ideas and feelings. Some are clothed in theatrical dresses, enunciating gentle, archetypal gestures which seem to contain the serenity of very old traditions. The artist talks of Shinto beliefs as her spiritual heritage, one mediated by her move to north eastern Australia as an adult. Horiki's sympathy with the realm of human emotions and how these are affected by the natural world is the pervading quality of her recent exhibition, Life Vessel.

The largest painting entitled Her Table, reveals the internal dialogue conducted between our deliberate thoughts and involuntary feelings. The figures sitting across from one another at the incandescent yellow table, examine a mangrove seed, twigs, a piece of coral - banal enough items gathered from any beachcomber's stroll. But these ordinary things trigger subjective meanings and figures could be her, or you, or me musing over certain ideas and memories arising as we discard a thought, probe a feeling.

Other titles, Tidal Crossing, Fountain Tree, and Her as Nature suggest the co-mingling of human and ecological properties. The first contains two figures in transition between land and sea, set over the cycle of tides. Moon, boat and sea have a somewhat mythic quality; a sensual translucency glows in the oils. This work drew many return viewings, like the gravitational pull of its subject. Balance might have been the most compelling explanation for this work's success: light and darkness, land and water, ebb and flow.

If an intermixture of nature and humanness is not the primary narrative in all of Horiki's pictures, then it might be a similarly stirring force from an archetypal tale, such as the symbolic woman-child alone in the woods. There is darkness and mystery in this image but there are also lush crimson roses all around. The quality of redemption here is particularly appealing because it is not linked to transgression. I fancy the tranquility of Shinto is doing its quiet work.

While the paintings emanate freshness, sensitivity and assurance, they also contain a wisdom which viewers at the Gallery were surprised to learn belong to an artist in her mid-twenties. Even more surprising was Horiki's rapid acquisition of solid technical skills in the medium of ceramics, a love match for her natural design flair. The exhibition title, Life Vessel, refers to Horiki's inclusion of sixteen bowls and vases made within one year of taking up the craft. Respected potters Peter Thompson and Mary-Lou Hogarth played their part in Horiki's swift emergence, having taught master classes in the respective techniques of raku building and firing, and of embellishing slab pots with inscribed glazes (sgraffito).

The harmonious combination of paintings and ceramics enriched the exhibition and tended to even out the weakness of a few overworked figures. With a definite advancement in her range of technical skills, Yuki Horiki's articulation of a universal humanism has strengthened. And Life Vessel affirmed the health of painting as an expressive vehicle, one still offering the possibility of a new take on human consciousness.