It doesn’t appear to be UDA’s goal to make people’s faces look more refined or to make the eyes look bigger with his makeup. Those neat, simple strokes and impromptu brushes that he paints seem to happen randomly. Yet, there is something extraordinary in his work — the light, feathery dance of the pens and brushes over the face, as if, painting on a canvas. The colors and glow that set off the models’ natural beauty. Seemingly random but not reckless.
UDA has been a makeup artist for more than 30 years and his work is often seen in fashion magazines, advertisements, movies, dramas, and at fashion weeks — I only learnt of UDA’s background after years of admiring his work. It struck me when I realized that the precise and accurate randomness that he exercises is the result of having over 30 years of practice. I find it impossible not to wish that someday my face could be his canvas.
For about seven years starting in 2011, UDA ran a column titled, “Japanese Beautification Project”, in the Japanese magazine, Ginza. Rather than reporting on the latest makeup trends featuring professional models, the column featured makeup tutorials for amateurs that aimed to bring out the participants’ unique characteristics, while at the same time, guiding the readers to find joy in putting makeup on their own faces. UDA’s first book, Kesho: Makeup, published in 2021, is a continuation of the Beautification Project. Themed on the Japanese calendar’s 72 Kou (72 micro-seasons), the book depicts the changing seasons via makeup.
UDA’s mentor once told him that good makeup is all about harmony between color, shape, and texture. The changes in mood and state of mind expose a different face everyday. The temperature, humidity, whether you slept well the night before, changes in season, and jet lag; all of these also affect your face. UDA was taught to pay great attention to these everyday changes and continuously practice to adapt to the variations.
Recently, UDA took up the curator role of a new publication, Mekashi. Its first issue, α, includes a collection of UDA’s own work, as well as some experiential pieces crafted by over a dozen creators who use photography, paint, collage, ikebana, and texts as mediums. Each piece is personal, emotional, and unique, presenting the readers a diversified world view, the different forms of beauty, and the power of small ideas. The issue begins with the theme, “間”, which in Japanese means the relationship between things, the space that arises from differences, and the zone between this world and the next. The debut issue of Mekashi reveals to us that whatever comes naturally and spontaneously amidst uncertainty will always be unveiled in a way that is conceivable to us.
“It’s like a pendulum, swinging back and forth from one end to the other; and I want to find the happiness that arises in between,” said UDA.
To put my feelings for UDA’s work into words: It’s like riding on a long-distance train in a foreign land. Through the reflection of the window, there is green in the trees, blue in the sky, gray in the rain, and reddish-orange in the sunset. At that point in time, everyone is living in freedom.