(Born in 1981)
Wandering Play
oil on panel
194.5 x 194.5 cm. (76 1/2 x 76 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2007

Lot Essay

As a young artist in her mid 20s who has grown up alongside the development of video games, computers and digital cameras, technology is in many ways indispensable and inseparable from her daily life. The ways in which technology has skewed the boundaries between reality and artifice, has evolved the ways in which children spend the free time, seated in front of a large illuminated screen, visually absorbed in another world.

Usukubo's work shows a questioning of whether technology aided play or real life is more genuine, a concept she addresses by integrating childrens' role play and computer generated images in her works. In Wandering Play (Lot 1094), viewers are faced with a fantastic depiction of a child at play. Usukubo uses the computer to manipulate photographs through the function of "cut and paste", thereby creating photographic collage. This collage is then painted with delicate detail in a photorealist style. Despite confessing her upbringing in a digital age, her technique is as if she were a classically trained painter. The soft quality of her paint surface, done in a photorealist style, enables the viewer to experience genuine emotions despite the artifice of the painting. As if able to feel the warmth of the sun and the textured grass, the romanticism behind the careful craftsmanship by Usukubo is reminiscent of Renaissance works. Regardless of the subject matter of pre-adolescence in a contemporary society, the visual tenderness is at one with classical works.

Surreal, the pale silver blue background in Wandering Play glows so lightly and poetically, it is difficult to discern what time of day this child plays and whether or not the child who stands in front of a chair, is in a photo studio or was superimposed onto a summer scene. By creating a physical and visual barrier between himself and the viewer, we are unable to engage in conversation with the young boy. The viewer thus willingly examines the adjacent details to build a narrative; hypothetically engrossing oneself in child's play. Scattered throughout, the several obscure toys enforce a sense of surrealism whereby each element contains a conceptual significance that can be individually interpreted and applied to our past and childhood fantasies. Perhaps associating them with the past, children, adults or storybooks, Usukubo's work is uniquely abstract and effectively removes the protagonist's role as a main character and instead revives a magnitude of details and imagination from our own childhood experiences.

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