Yuichi Hirako has known all along. If the pandemic has taught us anything, the natural world is our respite and rescue, the strong and safe place that nurtures and abides. Perfectly timed, the Warehouse Gallery opens 2021 by introducing his works for the first time in Hong Kong. Growth Rings is a walk in a friendly forest filled with flourishing vines that slip through open windows, revealing creatures in easy camaraderie.  A pine tree protagonist is the frequent guide through this visual circle of life.

Born in rural Japan, Hirako studied abroad, earning his BFA in painting from the Wimbledon College of Art in the UK and unsurprisingly, embraced multiple disciplines, including drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and sound performance,  It’s clear that he finds a kinship with “all things great and small” as he continues to explore and exult in the crucial connection between nature and human beings. Whether in awe of the wonder of forest or the cultivation of a treasured plant, the works underscore the inseparable yet mysterious bond we have with green living “things”.

Like a picaresque hero, the pine tree character adventures or just hangs within the domestic and wilderness scenes, interacting with  cats, dogs, birds, wild creatures and other plants as equals. "When most people see a flower, they think it is beautiful, and when they see a weed in their garden, they pull it out because they don't want it. Most people can't make any judgments when they look at the complicated internal machinery of an i-phone, but when it comes to nature and plants, they somehow become professionals." His warm, vibrant images create an inclusive colorful earth teaming with texture and life, made more authentic by the hand-made, organic feel entirely created with oil pastel on raw, unstretched linen. "I drew each line in the work as if I were carving a growth ring," the artist explains about the title of the show. "Some lines are strong and assertive in color, while others blend in with their neighbors. And sometimes the lines disappear." Contrasting the disparity between the lifespan of humans and plants, he presents food for thought and our perspective. Old Growth, Growth Rings and the Ring Cycle.  It’s not easy being green, and Yuichi Hirako wants to help.  —Sasha Bogojev

Growth Rings is on view through January 18, 2021