Yuken Teruya

Japan, b.1973

Yuken Teruya is a Japanese born New York based artist who creates artworks based on memories of his homeland Okinawa. His creations reflect on the untouched nature of his island, which he recreates in his paper bags’ constellations and paper forest series.

Teruya uses discarded shopping bags from the main retails brands of frenetic Manhattan, as well as Dollar bills, Monopoly bills, toilet paper rolls and McDonald’s bags.

The fascination toward nature -that has been present since the origins of Mankind- is expressed here through the use of discarded material, and this controversial choice creates a poetic yet twisted dynamic within the artworks.


It is interesting to note how the artist manages to unite oriental and occidental sensibilities: the art of paper making known as Washi was brought to Japan in 610 AD, and since then paper has been present in the everyday life in a multitude of uses from ikebana to origami, from furniture to toys. Thus Teruya appropriates this familiar material yet chooses a commercially and mass produced kind for his work. In front of the artworks, one is confronted with symbols of obsessive consumption society merging with forms of tranquil nature, and the juxtaposition of images brings an intellectual tension to the viewer. More than that there is a continuous physical tension presents within the artworks themselves, as in order to exist the artist needs to anchor the tension in the roots of the trees after meticulously cutting out the silhouette from the upper side of the bag.


In addition to the profound grace of Yuken’s artworks, there is also a strong social critique against the consumerist society and the creation of waste, which brings enormous environmental issues worldwide. Teruya’s message is not only of denunciation but also of hope that people can find back the beauty of nature through his artworks, and hence appreciate and care for it.


Yuken Teruya was born in Okinawa, Japan in 1973. He received his BFA from Tama Art University, Tokyo in 1996, and his MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 2001.

His work has been shown in several solo and group exhibitions worldwide, notably one-man shows include Josee Bienvenu Gallery, New York; Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica; Dahlem Ethnological Museum/Asian Art Museum, Berlin; Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London; and The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo. Teruya participated to many important group exhibitions such as Paper at Saatchi Gallery, London (2013); the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); Ties over Time: Japanese Artists and America at the US Ambassador’s House, Tokyo (2010); Hundred Stories about Love at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2009); The Shapes of Space at the Solomon Guggenheim, New York (2007); Greater New York 2005 at MOMA P.S.1, Queens, NY.  


Teruya’s work is present is some of the most renown collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Guggenheim, New York; Flag Art Foundation, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, D.C.; the Charles Saatchi Collection, London; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; the Mori Art Museum, Japan; Hoffman Collection, Berlin and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin.