Ruri Clarkson is a self-taught embroiderer who has brought stitchery out from the private world of female domesticity into the fine arts. “When I started embroidery, the media embraced my work and my intention” she says. Ruri is currently taking part of “We, Who Can’t Read Between the Lines”, a collective exhibition at Capsule/Sunday Gallery.
Small wood frames hanging on the walls displayed traditional embroiders. At first sight, every frame depicts ornamental and naïve pieces, but upon closer examination you will discover that the words hand-stitched on them are Japanese words use in relation to women and their role within Japanese society.
Terms like “負け犬” (makeinu) which literally translates as “loser dog” but here it’s commonly used in reference to unmarried women or “婚活” (konkatsu) that translates as “marriage hunt”, another term that highlights the importance of marriage for women in Japan. Ruri exposes the way these words impose themselves on Japanese women consequently affecting their lives.
Her latest works are in the main room that now looks more like a home than a gallery. She comments “I wanted the artwork to feel domestic, not perfect”. The artist sew curtains with nursery motifs and embroidered on them fragments of real conversations she has either overheard or held herself with friends or acquaintances. I asked her help to read the embroidered conversations: “In the end I said bye-bye to the baby”, “My husband’s family was sad”, “Every time I listen to Anpanman*, I feel my brain is melting”.
Every curtain is overloaded with meaning. From infertility to giving birth, to maternity to abortion, each curtain tells us a story. Using the same medium Ruri explores and reflects both social and political issues and questions the place of women in contemporary Japanese society. She adds “I felt I had a mission to share this and to put it into art form”. And her work definitely delivers her intention.
I find her artworks emotional, sad, ironic and occasionally funny. Every piece has layer under layer making her work incredibly complex. One thing I find remarkable is how she looks beneath Japan’s calm exterior and examines what is hidden inside the family and gender issues of this country.
You can see more of Ruri’s works at her official website: http://ruriclarkson.com/ (English/Japanese).
Many heartfelt thanks to Ruri for her time to show me and talk about her work. And another huge thanks to my friend Lori, for introducing Ruri to me.
*Anpanman (アンパンマン) is a Japanese picture book series written by Takashi Yanase. The anime adaptation is one of the most popular series amongst young children in Japan.
Capsule Gallery: 2-7-12 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0001(8 minutes walk from the South exit of Ikejiri-Ohashi Station on the Den-en toshi line, 10 minutes walk from the North exit of Sangenjaya Station on the Setagaya line). Official Website: http://www.capsule-gallery.jp/ (Japanese only). The exhibition ends on March 9th, 2014.
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