Vivid depictions of another world that features invisible beings
Artist KYOTARO’s first large-scale solo exhibition in seven years.
DIESEL ART GALLERY (Shibuya) will be holding Clad in the Universe , KYOTARO’ s first major solo exhibition in seven years which will take place from February 24 – May 18, 2017.
KYOTARO creates work by giving form to invisible beings from other dimensions and the powers they possess. A sense of a presence nearby or mystical experiences are important elements of her creative process. Her work is a picture plane brimming with movement, rendered through delicate, meticulous strokes that create textures of water drops, air bubbles, and hair, and that form subject matters such as light, deities, beasts, animals, and fairies. While adopting mainly a restrained monochrome palette of black and white, her work stimulates the spectator’ s awareness and transports them to a vibrant world.
This large-scale solo exhibition will present 13 new, large-scale works based on the theme “clothing humans would wear one hundred thousand years into the future” as well as some 80 small-scale works. By thinking far into future through the process of creating unfamiliar objects that cannot be materialized, whether it be clothing made of liquid or light, clothing that encourage the exchange of consciousness, or clothing equipped with communication features, the exhibition creates a space that explores an unknown world.
One hundred thousand years from now,
what will the earth look like?
Will humans, animals, or plants exist?
What kind of clothes will future humans be wearing? Perhaps they’ ll be of material similar to light.
Many emotions arise from the world of imagination. Unknown wisdom yet to be discovered is perhaps still dormant on this Earth.
I first look up at the universe from Earth, imagining far-away galaxies and planets, and once again come back to Earth’ s indubitable existence that graces us with rich emotion. My hope is that this exhibition will be an opportunity to see what’ s in front of us from a slightly different angle.
I have imbued into my paintings elements of a dimension which can be perceived through light.
I hope that my audience will be able to feel and sense this light.
Artworks as well as exclusive merchandise such as postcards will be on sale at the venue.
Photo: Naoki Takimoto
-- Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My artist name is KYOTARO. My real name is Kyoko Aoki. I am female. I was born in Kyoto in 1978 from a father from Saga and a mother from Kyoto. I was raised by parents who both had a love for art. For 16 years from the age of 21, I was active in Tokyo. In 2015, I set up a studio in Kyoto where I’ve been based since. The reason why I adopted a male name was because I wanted my audience to see my work through a perspective undefined by gender. When I was still in kindergarten, there was a gorilla in the Kyoto zoo named “Kyotaro,” and it was then that I harbored the idea of using that name if I ever did anything related to painting. True to my pledge, I have stuck to that name. Through it I become a neutral existence and this has allowed freedom and expansiveness in my expressions.
-- Can you talk about the exhibition’s theme and it’s highlights?
I created one hundred new works for this show. The highlights would have to be the intricacy of the drawings, the expansiveness of the paintings, and also the spatial design consisting of LED lighting and crystal-shaped walls. Cosmic themes are scattered across the work titles. What I strived to realize was a higher dimension gentle and invigorating, a space of radiance.
-- Clad in the Universe is your first solo show in seven years. Any new discoveries through the creation phase and putting together the exhibition? Also, how long was the planning stage of this show?
I’m constantly thinking about how I can produce interesting work. I stockpile ideas, jotting them down every time I think of something new, and for each project I propose the ones that seem most fitting to the given context. The idea for this show came to me five years ago. Originally, it started as a question: What kind of garments would gods be clad in? I wanted to draw them. Clothing is an important element when doing a show for a fashion-brand-run gallery, so I decided to develop this idea further.
The subject matter that I’m most intrigued by ― aside from animals, fairies, deities, and mythical creatures ― is people. I’ve always been aware of the significance of human existence. I gradually developed the idea for this show through a series of predictions: a hundred thousand years from now humans could be ascended to the dimension of the gods, and this future civilization would surely be utilizing technology that far exceeds our imagination. Each of us, regardless of biological sex, possesses both male and female aspects. For this show, I initially planned to create both male and female works but later decided to focus solely on female imagery, as both would be a vast terrain to cover. Among the many female models that exist, I proposed works representing, respectively, the soft, the affable, and the candid characters that certain women possess. I also tried to design the exhibition in a way that would be accessible for different age groups and genders. Creating the works in Kyoto was also important. I feel the sky is much closer in Kyoto. The radiant stars are almost within reach, and I feel connected to the universe. I’ve given you a lengthy explanation, but basically what’s important is the inspiration you, the audience, genuinely receive from the work.
-- You work mainly in drawing but for this show you’ve added painting into the mix. What was the intention? Also, take us through your creation process.
For this project I began with the drawings. Every time I would finish a piece of work, I would lay them side-by-side, and through this process gradually developed the exhibition’s overall atmosphere and concept. As things progressed, I realized that the show would lack fluidity if it was exclusively drawing, so I decided to also do painting. Working on the drawings solidified my ideas for the paintings. Completing the drawings is a task that takes long hours of concentration. It’s a laborious, gradual and steady process that involves working the pencil lines into flat, level planes. On the other hand, the paintings are more free and improvised. The paintings for this show are a mixture of both abstraction and representation. Paint is a versatile medium in terms of its range of expression, so I experimented a lot. The two media are completely different but I really love both.
-- Is there a particular message that you want to convey through your work?
This show stems from an idea that imagines humanity’s future as being more functional in comparison to the present. If men and women of the future were to exist, they would be clothed in light, float and fly freely, operate a simplified system that enables effortless data exchange, and would have invented essential mechanisms and efficient systems. Everyone would be equally happy, in a constant state of health and euphoria, and be progressing toward universal peace, and the list goes on. At present, this kind of world is essentially a utopia, but in the future I believe we can recreate a whole new world.
-- You’re currently based in Tokyo and Kyoto. Does your location/environment affect your work in anyway?
Kyoto is the place where I can concentrate, resulting in good work. Following a structured routine in the place I grew up brings back memories of my youth; I’ve created work based on recollections that reminded me of my love for certain things. The heightened concentration gives my motifs dimension. And for my paintings, the colors naturally fall into place. I feel like I’m constantly traveling, and I plan to change location again in the future.
-- You’ve come out with several story books. How do you develop the narratives and characters?
The theme is different depending on the series of work. My subjects in the past have been animals, fairies, and mythical creatures but recently I’ve been drawn to the realm of physics, such as quantum theory, focusing on elements that inarguably exist but are invisible to the naked eye, like microscopic matter, virtual space that exist in the computer space, sound, radio waves, and light. This show presents the universe as one single family; I wanted to create a dimension in which everyone, the entire universe, is content. Depicted in the works are an authoritative queen-like presence, the tenderness of women, their gentleness, their sensitivity, and also the woman of both purifying dignity and calm. Create optimum possibilities suits for example, depicts a princess wearing a garment that deduces the wearer’s optimum potential. It’s a portrait of a woman that embodies a dimension of infinite possibilities born from every possible perspective, as opposed to having one single answer. Dimensional space recovery field is a work of yet another princess clad in a shield with an expansive function of restoring entire dimensions. Space-time lady I created based on my thinking that a protective garment for pregnant women should exist. While preparing for this show, there were three pregnant women in my social sphere. Many of the works are faces with only the lips exposed; this was because soft lips characterize womanliness. A hundred thousand years from now our race will be further intermixed, but I imagine the lips would maintain its form.
-- What made you want to be an artist?
As a young child my object of interest spanned manga, anime, painting, moving images, music and fashion, to name a few. The platform that could fulfill this inclination was an occupation in which I could express myself through pictures. I love the world of art because it has the capacity to accept everything with open arms; it allows me to express myself freely through a range of works and to be my authentic self.
-- Who are the artists you respect?
Manga artist Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibili, graphic designer Alan Aldridge, puppeteer Jim Henson known for the likes of Sesame Street, The Beatles, Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, van Gogh, Dalí, Warhol, Picasso, Escher, Frida Kahlo, and Edo period painters Ito Jakuchu and Soga Shohaku.
-- Can you tell us what books, films, and music etc. have influenced you?
Osamu Tezuka’s manga Black Jack and Phoenix, Alan Aldridge’s illustrated book The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind have been my inspirations.
-- How do you spend your days off?
I either watch DVDs and YouTube, do a bit of reading, sleep, go out for drinks, or go on long walks with my husband.
-- What are some of the things you’ve been into lately?
Sake, surfing the internet, watching YouTube videos, and researching new and old books.
-- Any future projects or things that you want to challenge yourself to do?
I receive offers from various fields and am always excited to brainstorm ideas. I love planning, drawing, and arranging the works into a composition; I just love creating. I hope my audience will further enjoy my work as it goes through refinement and reinvention. My intention is to realize, through a diverse range of media, expressions that exude a sense of euphoria
-- Any message to the audience ― those who’ve already seen Clad in the Universe and those who have yet to see it?
Humans are characterized by their ability to reflect; each one of us is irreplaceable. Undiscovered wisdom lies dormant in this Earth and it’s brimming with possibilities. Through this exhibition, one can embark on a journey from Earth to the universe, contemplating far-away galaxies and planets, and once again returning to Earth, the unquestioned existence which imparts us with feelings of abundance. I hope this will be an experience of perceiving what’s in front of us in a slightly different light. I have imbued into my paintings elements of radiance. I hope my audience feels that light. The show is a special space realized through laborious hours and the support of many. The exhibition continues until May 18. I hope you’ll visit this one-of-a-kind space.