Yuko Takada / Artist

The town of Hirauchi is located on Yakushima’s southern coast. Walk along a road that bisects the main road and follows a small stream and a small, white house comes into sight. This is the Shizuku Gallery. (a shizuku is a drop of water) There, standing peacefully together with her paintings, is Yuko Takada. With straight bangs, a retro dress, and high-heeled shoes, she seems to have walked out of an art book. Her way of seeing the world emanates from her person before we even have a chance to see her works.

Ms. Takada has been painting nature’s beauty ever since she visited the island in November, 2006. Although she had painted with nature as a motif even before, the nature in her paintings had been a product of her imagination. However, when Ms. Takada first came to Yakushima and was exposed to its nature, it was amazing, even a bit upsetting, to find that “such places really exist.”

“As a painter, I’m so happy to have found a place like this. There’s a surprising variety of plants in Yakushima’s forests. There are 600 kinds of moss alone. I want to draw them all, if possible. And I want to become one with nature.” In contrast with her face in profile, talking shyly, Ms. Takada is a model of earnestness when she addresses the canvas. Her brushwork is delicate and precise, and with the application of each color, several more shades of greens are added. The forests of Yakushima spread out on the white canvas as if brilliant lives were sprouting before my eyes.

She didn’t set out to become an artist. As a child, she loved painting so much that when she entered high school she chose not to emphasize fine arts. Perhaps it felt too precious. But almost immediately thereafter she came to regret her decision and by the time she was a senior in high school she had decided to become an artist. When Ms. Takada began painting Yakushima she was worried that the people who had supported her in the past might not accept her new work. This was a major change of direction for her as well. Then someone said, “You finally found what you were looking for.”

Nothing delights Ms. Takada more than when someone likes one of her paintings and wants to keep it nearby. “Paintings are like pieces of me. They are crammed full of everything I’ve experienced thus far. That’s why when someone likes them, I feel as if my life to date has been affirmed.”

In the woods one finds substantial presences like trees that have lived for thousands of years together with little mosses and the like which make an impression on us given their sheer number. In the course of painting this single organism – the woods – in great detail, she feels that she can come closer to understanding what it means to be a human being on this planet. Surrounded by forest, this little, white gallery has already become a part of nature.