Sakurai carves female heads from Japanese cypress wood without finishing it with any paint. Japanese cypress is a fairly fine-grained wood in a somewhat subtle hue of white. Its colour, texture, and the ease in carving curves are exactly what Sakurai desires as the material of his work. However, the path leading to his meeting with Japanese cypress had been a long one. He started his career with carving clay figures, then dry lacquer figures, only finding all these inadequate in expressing what he desired. Next, he tried camphor wood. Its redness, slightly rough grain and coarse texture disappointed him. What Sakurai had in mind ultimately was a white figure. He had thought of using marble as well, but he felt it too "cold". After repeated trail and error, he finally found Japanese cypress, with which he immediately resonated
What is the reason for the long period of inactivity since his first one-man show in 1988 to his latest presentation in 2007? Time is a necessary investment to cultivate and polish his skills in using Japanese cypress, a newly found material for his work. Another thing worried Sakurai. When Sakurai entered the art school, the trend of "In the Beginning there was the Concept" was mainstream in the world of theory of modern sculpture or modern art in general. Sakurai was baffled. What kind of concept would people label the female figure he wanted to create? Or, what kind of art concept should he apply to his work? Concept became his torture. Sakurai just let time fly by without working on anything as felt that what he wanted to do was the so-called "not fitting in any Concept, not in accord with the current trend" type. As he spent quiet time with Japanese cypress wood and faced his ideal female figure in solitude in his atelier, he gradually overcame his trauma.@As soon as he changed his attitude and admitted the fact that "I am just my unique self. I create what I want to", his hands started to carve swiftly. It took much time, but he had established an unshakable faith in his self image and his skills more than ever.
Sakurai's female figures modeled on no specific person (lot 1119 and lot 1120). They are the essence of the ideal women in his mind. The figures thus created are both upright and sensual. When being asked how he reached that point, Sakurai answered, "Something magical happens at some point in the process of production which finishes the texture and everything else in an ideal shape only at the very final moment. That's why I hold up through all the difficulties and enjoy the process. Even I will not know what the ultimate shape will be until I attempt to finish it."
The hair of Sakurai's female figures is either curly or hanging down the two sides, making the figures look as if they were alive. However, we can by no means consider him fetishistic with hair. After all hair is no more than one part of the face. The shining eyes which are in contrast to the perfect white skin carved from wood without finishing it with paint gives the vivid, sensual look to the female face. The eyes are made by the cloisonne technique. Before settling down with the cloisonne technique, Sakurai tried many others. Now it becomes his favourite way of expression in his work.
Sakurai says that he wants to go on carving female faces and there are a lot of images that he wants to try carving.
Sakurai, who has finally emerged from various painful experiences, is indeed a very promising artist.
(Text taken from interview with Reiko Kurita)