By Virginia Girard
“A gifted artist can make a small thing of greater value than a grand work by an artist who is not gifted…Beauty not in object but how rendered”
– Albrecht Durer
Yuken Teruya’s Notice—Forest (Breakfast Street) addresses revolt in all meanings of the word, and speaks to a timeless challenge all artists face. The paper bags placed before the viewer are a short-lived commodity in reality. Their lifetime most likely consisted of holding tantalizing pastries before being discarded in an undignified manner. A paper bag covered in grease is immediately revolting when it is no longer of use, and most can found on the pavement mixed with cigarette butts, decaying leaves, and rotting scraps. The paper bag is in object that can be categorized with all forms of detritus in the urban setting, all of which are synonymous with grime and disgust.
Teruya’s piece defies all of these lowly associations, elevating an object of simple construction into an elegant artwork and generating dissonance in the viewer’s previous notions of trash and high art. Each bag is revived from its crumpled, broken state, but evidence of its past is visible. The spoiled remains of breakfast left on each bag are cues for revulsion in any viewer; no one would be tempted to handle these objects or even acknowledge them if encountered in a heap of trash. But Teruya boldly commands the reader to Notice, to see what our eyes pass over and label as revolting before we have examined them properly.
His ability to find beauty in an object that is basic in its conception, and even more unappealing when it has been used and discarded, is a revolt against our tendency to see trash as a bottom line, a final word in the lifecycle of the objects we’ve produced. The delicate trees carved in the paper are evocative of lace, juxtaposing the blank, unassuming form of the bags. His decision to depict trees on these paper bags speaks to the irony of humanity’s tragic ability to transform timeless natural beauty into products with a lifespan that begins and ends in minutes. Our ability to see nature as beautiful in the face of our own destruction of it is a revolting notion in itself, and Teruya asks the viewer to consider redefining this materialistic conception of waste. Rather than accepting trash as a state of demise and a point of no return, the viewer can learn to see potential rather than disgust, and effectively revolt against their own preconceived notions of beauty.
Notice—Forest (Breakfast Street)