Japanese artist Yusuke Asai uses pigmented earth found in local mud and sand to paint intricate, site-specific murals that sprawl across entire walls, ceilings, and floors. The Tokyo-born painter has decorated classrooms in Bihar and Maharashtra, India in the past, but his new exhibit yamatane (“mountain seed”) at the Rice Gallery in Houston, Texas marks his US debut.
Working with a team of assistants for nearly two weeks, Asai created his mural through a very organic process, letting the piece evolve and come together naturally to form an expansive landscape. Filled with imaginary and real creatures, humanlike figures, rolling hills, elaborate plants, and other forms of life, the dense microcosm of the world was painted using 27 shades of local, Texan soil. To Asai, the medium of earth is what gives life to his landscapes. He says, “Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and microorganisms. It is a ‘living' medium.”
yamatane will be on display through November 23, 2014, at which point the mural will be washed away in a demonstration of the ephemeral nature of the artist's work. Asai, who has embraced the fleeting quality of his murals, says, “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.”