A qualified architect, David grew up across Ontario and Montreal (Canada) and started his career by making 3D architectural graphics—this was between 1998 and the early 2000s. A temporary gig became a permanent job, he became tired of the routine after almost 10 years, and David shifted to Indonesia with his young family. Thanks to a friend, he had an opportunity to work closely with metal foundries and wood artisans, sculpting away, inspired to the brim. Once back, absence of foundries had him go back to 3D design.
David was smitten by the act of creation that continues to this day. A sculptor of concrete, he displays characteristic honesty inspired by architectural forms. “Appearing before our eyes are pre-Columbian rock dwellings, god statues from the Andes or Easter Island, steles deteriorated by rain, remnants of modern cities having survived a cataclysm, fragments of Babylonian cities, colonial settlements brought down to their foundations.”
His work represents erosion, and the unmaking of human decadence. Our buildings rise up into the sky, challenging the might of the wind, reaching out and pushing all boundaries, drawing lines where there are none, replacing still air with metal and concrete beams, asserting our identity on the mute nature. Mute, until it speaks back with a force so incomprehensibly powerful, immutable, indestructible, roaring through space and time with a silence that chills our very bones. Nature resists with time, the journey wearing us out till our very death. Our structures and possessions, our pride, vanishes away with unforeseen brittleness—bent and humbled.
His designs can effortlessly be enlarged, so real in their form that one can imagine walking around in them. Yet, they are handmade, an odd corner may not fit into the angle, the window on the right may not accurately match the dimensions of the one on the left. Not unlike human beings themselves—every aspect is flawless yet damaged, sufficient yet incomplete, inanimate yet alive in its being.
He follows a disciplined routine, like the best amongst us do, balancing time between work and a loving family. “Sometimes inspiration doesn’t always come when you want, and it can be very stressful. Because there are deadlines, there are orders, clients and commissions to keep up to. But I had always dreamt of having my own studio and I have it now, so I am not complaining. I am just so happy now, I can do art full-time. It is a blessing. When I wake up, I am just so happy to go to the studio and do as much as I can. I would work 20 hours a day if I could, but I can’t—maybe in a few years, when my kids are older!”
Why concrete? “It is humble, ductile, inexpensive yet so precious.” Subscribing to the architectural revolution of the 1950s, his choice of material and architecture is a reaction to the carefree abandon displayed by the generations preceding him. David is firm through his work, reminding us that all frivolity is subject to dusk, that the strongest metal gets chipped away by rain, year after year.
“I am more cerebral than emotional.” The frantic pace of evolving technology leads to a mindless rush to play catch up. David, instead, chooses to let go and exist in the now. His plain insistence on creating with hands is an ode to simplistic artistic practice. No artwork is perfect, and David’s creations are subject to endless iterations till they win his approval. “I am sensitive to how people react.” Despite being partial to his own choice of designs and structural blocks, David taps into feedback on every aspect of a sculpture and attempts to understand an opposing perspective.
David Umemoto looks up to architect Le Corbusier, who has been a strong influence owing to his conceptual and poetic style, and also attributes a fair amount of inspiration to architects Louis Kahn and Scarpa.
By listening to his voice within, and imbibing all elements of his daily life, David offers unified communication through his work and through sculptures that add weight to an exhibition space by their continuous act of storytelling. It is free form yet structured, quite like an emotion expressed verbally. We understand what it means, and we yearn for more.