Natalia Yakushev

Natalia Yakushev

Poem on a study of three leaves

Poem on a study of three leaves
Colour and ink on paper on paper
38.5 x 29 cm

Study Copy of a Dragon with Saz Leaf after Unknown Artist

Study Copy of a Dragon with Saz Leaf after Unknown Artist
Ink, handmade colour and gold on paper
44.5 x 30.2 cm

Study Copy of a Red Lotus

Study Copy of a Red Lotus
Colour and ink on paper
30 x 24 cm

Artist statement

My passion for Japanese art started with a chance encounter of the concept of “wabi-sabi”, finding beauty in transient and imperfect. Having grown up with a Western idea of equating Beauty with Perfection, the revelation that something does not have to be Perfect to be Beautiful had a significant impact on me.  

A fascination with this concept lead to more research and more focussed passions emerged: for the highly codified and complex world of Heian court, brought to life in the first ever novel, “Genji Monogatari”, written by a female author Murasaki Shikibu in early 11th century, and a diary of her high-spirited contemporary, Sei Shonagon; also for related artworks on paper; for Japanese ceramics; for works of the Rimpa school; for gilded screens, and finally for woodblock prints.  

It is the passion with which Murasaki Shikibu describes the art of writing, appearance of texts in little cartouches of the woodblock prints, as well as a desire to harmonise oneself through having a counterbalance to a highly analytical job that led me to take on Japanese calligraphy classes. Having reached the semi-fifth dan level, I am just starting to appreciate the challenges I’m yet to face in my work.  

The court life of the Heian period was permeated with belief in Buddhist teachings and Shinto traditions. Life led me to encounter the Buddhist concepts of forgiveness, acceptance and loving kindness in the most unexpected place - the clinical setting of the Pain Management Centre. Meditation, a key Buddhist practice, proved to be a powerful pain management tool and passive meditation, in time, lead to meditation through the total absorption in action that is required in practising calligraphy, preparing tea, or creating a work of art.  

Thus as main themes for the graduation works this year, I chose Japanese Calligraphy and Buddhism.  

Inspired by the warm, glowing beauty of Japanese gilded screens I have set out on a quest to create similar objects myself. My first screen draws its inspiration from a poem by a Heian period poet-courtier, Sugawara no Michizane, worshipped as a benevolent God of Learning. Composed during an unplanned trip, the poem presents a brocade of autumn leaves to gods as an offering. My screen thus also turns into an offering to the God of Learning. I also wanted to explore the question of understanding and translatability of cultures and thus presented not just Japanese writing, but also English translation of the verse.

For my second project I chose an image of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The “Divine intercessor” who postpones entering nirvana to help others achieve Enlightenment, the Kannon can be depicted as male, female of androgynous figure. It seems such depiction is especially relevant in the modern world which questions gender roles and identities. Indeed, should Compassion be a male or a female trait or should every one of us, independent of gender and origins, be universally compassionate to others and oneself?  

I do not identify myself as an Artist, a concept to me reserved for someone looking for innovation and self-expression. Instead, inspired by tradition, I remain truly yours, the Artisan who is striving to find the Beautiful in the imperfect and fleeting, to admire the Wisdom of the thoughtful Past, to feel Love through immersion in Nature, and to depict Life through Calligraphy. 


Natalia Yakushev

Natalia is a London-based artist inspired by Japanese culture. Natalia started practicing Japanese calligraphy in 2014 and holds 5th Dan level* in five major scripts and 1st Dan level in "woman's hand" from the Japanese Calligraphy Education Foundation. Natalia obtained her Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art with SOAS, specialising in the art history of Japan and Korea, India and Islamic lands. In addition, Natalia started learning the Chinese Meticulous Brush painting style and the Japanese Tea Ceremony and is upgrading her skills through regular training with relevant masters.   

Natalia takes part regularly in Japanese Calligraphy Education Foundation exhibitions and is a holder of a number of silver and gold awards. 

Fascinated with Japanese tradition, art and literature as well as international cultural exchange, in her current work Natalia is exploring the question of accessibility and translatability of cultures. Her work seeks to reflect the experience of living in a diverse environment and its influence on character and expression. Importantly, Natalia aims to express her gratitude for the Beauty, Love and Kindness she meets along her way. 


Instagram: @the_ artisans_corner
Email: nsirotkina[at]