Monday May 9, 2016 | by Andrew Page

3 Questions for ... Rui Sasaki

In 2010, I had the good fortune to be invited as a visiting critic to an especially strong RISD graduate show of glass MFAs, which that year included Charlotte Potter, Matthew Day Perez, and Rui Sasaki. I was impressed across the board, not only with the work, but the confidence with which all three artists worked with materials, embracing readymade and non-glass media in their respective thesis projects. Rui Sasaki presented a 4-hour video of her multi-day performance art piece that involved a block of ice made up of the same amount of water in the human body. A test of endurance and risking hypothermia, she curled her nude body around the block to hasten its melting, displaying a similar block of ice while the document of her marathon performance was screened. Since her graduation, she's taught glass and contemporary art at Worcester State University in the U.S., and Kyoto University of Art and Design as well as the Toyama City Institute of Glass Art in Japan. Working with "transparent materials," which includes ice and glass, she is building on her long-standing interest in the concepts of "home" and, by extension, "intimacy," something she felt the profound loss of when she left Japan to study in Rhode Island in 2007. Since her graduation, she's been traveling widely to residencies in the U.S., Sweden, Belgium, and Japan, as well as to exhibitions around Europe and Asia. As she writes in her artist statement: "Wandering is a part of my work to achieve the definition of intimacy in empty space and intimacy without space. Through my work, I document the intimacy and memory of the home." The GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet recently caught up with Rui at her residency in Norway, where she answered some questions about her latest projects. —AP

GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet: What are you working on?
Rui Sasaki: After four years of my working at Kyoto University of Art and Design (KUAD) and Toyama City Institute of Glass Art (TIGA) in Japan, I've started a new journey of my explorations internationally and in Japan since April 2016. In 2016, I have been fortunate to be awarded a fellowship from the Satoh Artcraft Research & Scholarship Foundation in Japan for my ongoing and new projects under generous supports by Toshiyasu Kawaguchi, who is a glass researcher and an instructor of the material study of glass at TIGA, and Yukinori Misaki, who is a professor in Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at Kagawa National College of Technology. Both of them especially have been helping me with my current research into self-illuminated glass that I have been applying for my project since 2014.

Currently, I am at S12 Galleri og Verksted in Bergen, Norway for an artist residency in April and May, working towards a solo exhibition called “Pluviophile.” The exhibition will held on May 20th through 31st at S12. I've been exploring the relationship between the weather, especially rain, and myself. The artist residency makes a lot of new experimental work and research about the weather with glass possible. The city of Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe (unfortunately for me, it has been nice weather in Bergen since the beginning of May). Actually, my interest in the weather started when I moved to Toyama in 2013. The weather in Toyama is incredibly unstable that I've never experienced in my life before. The weather of Bergen and Toyama is surprisingly quite similar except for the much longer daytime and the feeling of humidity on a rainy day. I've been feeling the uncanny during my stay in Bergen. I've been impressed by how much the phenomena of weather affects me physically and psychologically through the five senses, both in positive and negative aspects. I'm using glass mainly as the vehicle of preservation and recording as residue. As for the weather, I'm interested in how to preserve the current sunshine (referring to today’s weather), to have it visualized, and transform it from here to there. This was the trigger to use the self-illuminated glass that absorbs UV light such as sunshine and emits it in the dark without any light resources.

In my exhibition at S12, I am making new installation using self-illuminated glass with a solarium light in reference to artificial sunshine, a glass raincoat inspired by a traditional Japanese raincoat called “Mino” made out of rice straw, collecting rain in Bergen to use hotcasting sculpture, making projects with plants and 60-years-old green house weather-beaten sheet glasses as the reference of weather in Bergen, and so on.   

GLASS: What have you seen or experienced lately that has inspired you and got you thinking about your own work?
Rui: The experience of being in a different environment is vital for me to notice the subtleness and the hidden in everyday life. That makes my interest in the concept of a project become refined. The theme of weather is one of the examples of it. I would never realize about how physically and mentally essential sunshine and rain can be if I were not in Toyama or Bergen. I also always research the language in new places I visit. Exploring the expression of a word in different places inspires me to discover the different insights of thinking. Moreover, I have been interested in research about the feeling of comfortableness but uncomfortableness from reverse culture shock since I returned to live in Japan again in 2012. What is the crucial aspect to think about intimacy in regards to one's home?

GLASS: Where can your work be seen?
Rui: My work “Corners (Home)” is currently on view at the exhibition “Whereabouts” curated by Hyperopia Projects at GlazenHuis (Flemish Center for Contemporary Art) in Lommel, Belgium, on view until September 4th, 2016. I am finally going to have a solo exhibition “Pluviophile” at S12 Galleri og Verksted in Bergen, Norway on May 20th through 31st. All the art pieces are made at S12 in April and May. On May 27th, I will give a lecture in Craft (Glass) at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Bornholm. In the end of May, the piece Subtle Intimacy will be acquired as a part of architecture at Usaginonegoko in Kyoto, Japan. In July, I am excited to teach “Wonder Bubbles” for the introductory glass blowing class at Pilchuck Glass School. On August 18th, the Nancy Havlik Dance Performance Group and I will be performing “The space between dreams” at the Chrysler Museum of Art Glass Studio. In October, I will be at The Studio at The Corning Museum of Glass for an artist residency to make projects using local plants for the exhibition in Kanazawa, Japan, the next spring for which I collaborated with Toshio Tanahashi, who is a specialist of Shojin-cuisine. I have just been invited as an artist in residence by Iaspis (The International Artists Studio Program in Stockholm) in Sweden, where I will begin a new project.

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.