*Translation by Marina Dlacic
Born in Japan in the prefecture of Gifu in 1967, Atsuko Sasaki graduated in 1990 from the University of the Arts in Aichi Prefecture, specializing in oil painting. In 1993 she obtained the MFA.
Very active in the field of pictorial art, after having experimented in artistic techniques with wool as a self-taught, in 1999 she began to think that this element could be used in an artistic conceptual way in an increasingly more exponential way, leaving out painting on canvas and always approaching more the artistic experimentation with wool which she finds to be a natural and delicate material. Over time, her work deviates more and more from artisanal practice and decoration. Thus the artist begins to create real works of art in felt.
Sasaki continues to experiment by expressing herself in multiple fields; she creates lamps with wool, a material of choice that she finds beautiful and resistant but also changeable due to its ability to shrink or expand, causing vibrations and friction that require the artist to carry out continuous physical work at the expense of time and concentration. For this reason, the realization of her works requires a long but passionate process.
With the global pandemic, workshops and exhibitions abroad have stopped, as has the acquisition of materials such as the colored wool preferred by the artist. But all this was not a brake for Sasaki who saw a new creative opportunity in the sudden obstacle, continuing to experiment with colors and create new works, even if her greatest desire remains to return to exhibit abroad.
How did you approach art, what was your path and why did you choose to use felt as an expressive medium?
Initially active in the world of pictorial expression, after meeting wool in ’99, during my self-taught research, I came to believe that the means of expression is not limited to canvas and painting, as long as it is based on certain concepts.
The birth of my son led me to consider oil paints as a very toxic and dangerous material for children. For this reason, I avoided painting for a while.
Wool, on the other hand, is a very delicate natural material. At the beginning I made everyday objects (hats, bags, etc.). Continuing my research day after day, I began to think about producing not only artifacts with wool, but also works of art. I thought the art medium was boundless. I don’t even think it should be classified as a textile art.
What are the sources from which you draw inspiration and how do you choose the subjects of your works? What were the first works you made in felt?
Many of my works use sea creatures such as anemones and starfish as motifs, but I don’t have a particular attachment to the sea (and marine life). Their patterns and shapes are linked to the shapes I was looking for. I am very attracted to the cellular shapes and curves of living creatures.
All living things are made of beautiful curves, not straight lines.
The representation of mysterious life forms is reflected in my drawings, as well as the stimuli I receive from their forms and impressions.
How did the idea of your famous sculpture bags come about? What role did they play in your artistic and professional career?
The reason my sculpture bag is described as a “sculpture” is that people recognize it as a “bag” because a “handle” is added to the sculpture (object). Bags are familiar items that everyone knows. My work works both as a bag and as a sculpture. You can decide based on your sensitivity.
Can you tell us about the work you presented at the 8th Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art in Madrid in 2019?
The work that I presented at the 8th Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art held in Madrid in 2019 is a spatial representation (installation) of the small world of the deep sea.
The tapestry is made up of pieces of felt in the shape of small algae (wakame), which are inserted into holes and joined together. It is about a piece similar to a puzzle, that can be changed at will in size and shape. With this technique I also create lamps.
What are the main difficulties that as an artist you have had to overcome during your professional career?
Wool is a very durable and beautiful material. I love this material. And my non-woven fabrics are made only with my hands. Wool shrinks and changes gradually due to vibration and friction. It is a physically very long process. It amuses me, it takes me a long time to make a piece through slow changes, and shrinking it to the limit allows me to create a smooth and perfect surface.
It is a wonderful thing that only hands can do.
What impact did the two long years of the pandemic have on your work? What has changed in your way of working?
The pandemic made it impossible for me to travel abroad for workshops and exhibitions. At the same time, my favorite dyed wool was no longer available.This made me despair for a while, but then miraculously I stumbled upon more rustic white wool and made lamps in natural colors.
The possibility of dyeing them in different colors has also been studied.
As a result, it opened up new possibilities for me. A pinch is an opportunity.
I would like to organize exhibitions in various art galleries abroad.