Tell us about how your work has developed over the last 10 years
My work has always been about personal experiences. When I was at university my Nan died and my work changed a lot. Prior to that I was making strange toys, as I was interested in human connection and interaction and trying to bring in animalistic elements. Then when my Nan died, instead of making toys out of fur - I did taxidermy, which took my work down quite a morbid path.
After university, I painted from the photographs of the taxidermy installations. So I went back to painting and I am still there now. The taxidermy animal element, has come back into my paintings.
How would you describe your work now?
It is a manifestation of all sorts of things. My Nan dieing was a real turning point, but whilst none of my work was directly about her, when I saw her dead body that just stayed with me. It is a really strange thing, and it took me a long time to get my head around.
One of my shows was totally built around regret. I really regretted a massive part of my early 20s. That whole show was painted through tears. So my work became all about time.
I was also really ill in my teens with eating disorders so that comes back around to biology and the body and testing its boundaries, as well as your physical state and how you should feel mentally. So my work is this big manifestation of all these things.
Does your Japanese heritage influence your work?
More recently I have been looking at that far more. Actually, seeing that a lot of buddhist philosophy and East Asian culture does resonate with the things I have been looking at in my work.
It is only ever said usually when someone has met me and they think that I have been partly schooled in Japan, and they think that comes through in my work with the black background.
At what stage do you realise what your next piece will look like?
There is usually a gap between finishing one piece and moving to another - a mourning period. I will make decisions based on the images I have, and do mock ups on the computer. So usually I have the composition in my mind already before doing the mock up.
What are some of the challenges that you have found within the art world?
Society pressures - thinking about what other people think about what you do. Self doubt is the biggest challenge because you spend so much time on your own. Making things which you are not sure if people are going to see.
There are unwritten rules which don’t seem to make sense, like not being able to contact a gallery about your work. If you want to get with a gallery you need to go to private views and meet people so that has always stopped me form contacting galleries. Everything that has happened is through people I have met or competitions. But I guess part of a gallery's job is to discover new people so if I contacted them, it would take the excitement out of their job.
If we step back a second, what made you decide that this was an avenue you wanted to pursue?
I was really young, about 4, when I decided I wanted to be an artist. I had a really good art teacher who used to teach adults in the Summer, so I used to go to her art classes. My parents always encouraged us; my dad was always building something, my mum was always sewing. We were always busy making stuff. It was really something I loved doing. Then through school I was lucky that I had great art departments, with enthusiastic teachers.
What are some words of wisdom for art students just about to graduate?
I went through a period of intense anxiety after graduating, wondering how I could make things happen; I knew what I wanted but didn't know how to get it. Just be patient and keep going... you'll get there in the end!
For me, the best thing I could do was to establish a bit of a routine - get into the studio, have a coffee, paint.. it's your job, your work and it's helpful to treat it as such.
Having a part time job working for other artists has been really helpful as I see how their day generally goes.
Shows are useful to give yourself a deadline to work towards, or competitions. This year I got into the Thread Needle prize and if you do get in you feel like you are going in the right direction. If you are not chosen you learn to deal with rejection better.
Think about applying for residencies! Whether they are self or state funded, they are incredibly positive experiences! - you get to meet other artists, experience and travel to different places and have time to fully focus on your practice without everyday disruptions or pressures.
How would you describe the function of art in society?
It is so difficult - a real minefield. It depends what type of art you are talking about. Design surrounds us all the time. In that sense art has a huge function in society. For what I do, art can bring people together, stimulate conversation and deliver messages and dialogue and that is a really positive thing. But for a lot of people, art doesn't really come into their lives at all, it is not something everyone clocks.
What would you say you are most proud of?
I am most proud of getting to this point, not giving up and now working for myself. I have had little successes recently, so that has made me feel that perhaps it's possible for me to exist just doing the thing I love most.
More about Yuki: http://www.yukiaruga.co.uk