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APRIL 2022

To accompany the exhibition THE QUIET PLACE I SEARCH FOR: In situ (ɪn ˈsɪtju /室/ Shitsu しつ) by Yukari 海堀 Kaihori at MEANWHILE

‘Quiet’ can be an admonishment, as in, ‘be quiet!’ but equally an invitation to open one’s ears and senses; a hushed request to make some small sound audible - perhaps an animal rustling, an approaching footstep, or a heartbeat.

Quiet is something to be longed for and sought out. We reward ourselves with ‘peace and quiet’ and arrange our days to snatch a moment’s ‘quiet time’ before sleep. Quiet is also sometimes feared, for with it comes the chance to reflect, which can pave the way to disquiet, unease or regret. Secrets and shame may be concealed by quietude and staying quiet can wield immense power. Not speaking, even under duress, can imply guilt or be punished with violence, yet speechlessness has also preserved secrets, reputations and lives.

What we mean by quiet may not be the absence of sound at all, but rather the softening of focus and the broadening of attention. Instead of training our thoughts to accomplish some task, a quiet moment can involve letting go and embracing the world around. Doing so can bring acceptance, or a sense that the self is connected to that beyond its walls. In this way, quietude can open the door to a cacophony of voices.

In the words of Mary Ursula Bethell (1874-1945), poet of Te Whanganui-a-Tara,

Lovely above all is this silence—
But the silence is vibrant with words.

When Yukari writes of ‘the quiet place’ she seeks, she refers to the vibrancy of the world around, that harks up when we turn it an ear. A show by Yukari at RM gallery last year, In Search for Deities, included a frottage of the cracked gallery floor, a bronze plug filling an indentation in the concrete and wire clippings inserted into small holes left by previous artists. Calling our attention to the fabric around us, Yukari introduced her audience to what she calls ‘local deities,’ to ‘give back the power to the objects and spaces.’

This approach has a therapeutic impulse and is rooted in traditional Japanese aesthetics. Reflecting on her exhibition at RM, Yukari wrote that ‘when exposed to things that can overwhelm me, I like to remind myself that I need to connect to the reality of ‘here and now’ and not to live in my ‘headspace’ too much.’ There may, too, be a sense of calm or satisfaction to be had in allowing these voices to guide the process of making artworks.

At MEANWHILE, Yukari has allowed the materials and idiosyncrasies of the gallery and wider site to have a hand in the outcome of her exhibition: paintings are hung to mirror the arrangement of missing panes in the divided-lite window, or draped over screws left in the walls by previous artists. Alder trees, growing in the pavement at the foot of the building, are stars of the show, lending colour to the dyed paintings and looped twines, with leaves and cones plucked from the trees also scattered around and cast into bronze.

Against the wall of the space, a small conical heap of terra-cotta powder belies the many hours spent hammering a brick in a parking lot. The humble alchemy here is a nod to the crudely bricked-up windows of the grandiose building which has stood on this site for 102 years.

This show reminds us that things as familiar and banal as bricks, gallery walls, floors and street trees can be other than meets the eye - and perhaps, possess lives of their own. It seems fitting that when I check out the alder trees on Google Street View, their dense foliage vanishes as I cruise along Willis Street. Swivelling the mouse to gaze back at the trees from the corner of Boulcott Street, they are just emerging from winter, with apple green buds appearing on their twiggy frames.

"To accompany the exhibition THE QUIET PLACE I SEARCH FOR: In situ (ɪn ˈsɪtju /室/ Shitsu しつ) by Yukari 海堀 Kaihori at MEANWHILE"

essay, exhibition

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