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The Time is Now: Yuri Shimmyo

Turning one’s life upside down to become a painter isn’t the easiest path, but newcomer Yuri Shimmyo from Sydney’s northern suburbs decided to take that scary plunge into the unknown when she realised there would never be a convenient time to follow her dreams. Whilst working for sometime in the usual round of office jobs – ranging from paralegal to clerical and everything in between – Yuri never stopped dreaming about pursuing her true passion: painting. Following a personal crisis (the end of her marriage), she found herself asking if this was her opportunity, but as the mother of a curious and energetic 8-year-old boy, the luxury of chucking it all in on a whim was unthinkable, so Yuri decided to make sure she was financially secure. “But when you say ‘financially secure’, you know, that never comes”, she says. “So with my parents’ financial help, I thought … if I don’t do it now, I won’t ever do it.” And so she dived in, head first.

Like that powerhouse of the Australian art world, Jeffrey Smart, Yuri’s paintings reflect the real world, but there’s always a twist to them; something almost hyper-real. She captures the essence of what she sees around her but avoids being slavishly tied to reality by ignoring her sketchpad. “I usually just take a camera – I don’t have a sketchbook, I just snap hundreds and hundreds of photos,” she reveals. “I use them as a reference and then I tweak them with my paint to get exactly what I want.” Her work reflects this approach by rendering singular moments in time; a child running, a page about to be turned, a shadow landing on a room at a precise second.

Yuri grew up in Australia but she was born in Japan, and the culture of her native country has had a considerable influence on her approach to composition and colour. “I’ve been exposed to Japanese art since I was young”, she explains, “we are always surrounded by graphic arts in Japan. For example, every room in our home would have a calendar… it might have had wood block prints or photographic or impressionist work. We were always surrounded by images like that.” Perhaps subconsciously, Yuri repeats this tradition with her own paintings, “when I think [a work] is finished, I hang it in my room first and live with it for a month.”

Yuri describes being a painter as “fun and excruciating. I get really happy painting and then when things aren’t going too well I get really cranky at painting.” Like any creative pursuit, the challenge is always in getting out what exists inside the artist’s brain, and once this achieved, therein lies true success. “I don’t know what possesses me to do it [sometimes], the level of confidence you have to have is… is…there’s no basis for it,” she muses.

Yuri’s work can be seen at Hardware Gallery in Enmore, and she will be having an exhibition of her new work sometime during November. For more information and to see more of Yuri’s paintings, visit her website.

words: Kristen Hodges


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