Heather Ujiie’s Erotic Alchemy

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If you have any interest in textiles and print check-out Heather Ujiie‘s exhibition Erotic Alchemy at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, on view through November 30th. Ujiie works like a DJ, mashing up material culture and art historical references with a mania that will wake-up your visual senses and send you looking for decaf. Her professional background moving back and forth between design and art explain the foregrounded aesthetic duality present in most of the images.

The Philadelphia Art Alliance describes the exhibition:

Textile artist and designer Heather Ujiie incorporates many techniques–including hand painting, drawing, stitching, and printing with innovative large-format digital printing technology, to create a Utopia, that she describes as “ a celebration of the unconscious.”

As an other-worldly environment, the installation reflects her interests in biodiversity and the future of our environs. This is accomplished through the creation of a fantastical landscape of hybrid animals and plant forms influenced by early botanical and anatomical illustrations by artists such as, Piero Fornasetti, Jean Cocteau, and Renaissance and Baroque iconography. This transcendental experience, using digitally created textile panels and upholstered furnishings, is made complete by the accompaniment of audio recordings from nature.

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Ujiie describes her own process:

In my current textile installation work, I strive to create large-scale allegorical narratives that utilize analog and digital craft and technology. As a designer and an artist, I hope my work suggests a fusion between clean elegant design, and the raw underpinnings of creative expression. I am preoccupied by the dichotomies within the human condition, which are characterized by growth, beauty, loss and decay. I am also interested in questions pertaining to our gender identity, mortality and sexuality. …I hope my digitally printed textile installations ignite deep spiritual forays into the imagination, and generate personal reflection on what is hidden, weather it be our own personal demons, or our lust for life.

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She goes on to discuss her process:

Much of my work evolves out of appropriation and transformation of historic and cultural iconography and nature studies. I have drawn from 13th century Japanese woodblock prints depicting battles of samurai warriors, to 19th century Toile de Jouy hunting scenes illustrating latent violence. All my textile work is a synthesis of several methods of artistry, including hand painting, drawing, stitching, and printing with innovative large-format digital printing technology.

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Using the tools and language of design to produce fine art is not a radical idea, but those is hardly where the transgression in Ujiie’s work resides. Her ability to mimic historic tropes and insert her own intensely vivid color sensibility into her textile and installation work is quite astonishing. The couch (pictured above), while seeming at first to be a prop for the pillows depicting erotic imagery that are placed upon it, is in fact one of the more astonishing works within the exhibition. Transforming a kind of neutral modern couch (in this case fabricated for the exhibition by this crack team of interior designers) into a molten object wrapped in victorian notions of the tropical; in an oblique way it brings to mind the work of Jorge Pardo, who also mixes design and architectural tropes in complicated ways.

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Some of the most subtle work in the show are the window screens/curtains, it’s in these moments that the installation seems to leave it’s interior dialogue between art & design and inform our perceptions of the world outside the gallery.

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All images courtesy of the artist.

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Categories: Artists, Exhibitions, Interesting Printmaking


One Response to “Heather Ujiie’s Erotic Alchemy”

  1. A gorgeous must see show. Heather brings the Art Alliance alive. I was fortunate to be in the audience for her lecture too.