Makiko Kudo

“Reborn as Air”

工藤麻紀子 Makiko Kudo 空気に生まれかわる Reborn as air 2020 oil on canvas 227.3 x 363.6 cm ©Makiko Kudo

Tomio Koyama Gallery is pleased to present “Reborn as Air,” an exhibition of works by Makiko Kudo. The exhibition marks the artist’s 6th solo presentation at the gallery since her previous showing four years ago, and introduces a rich variety of works including a selection of latest paintings, and her newly attempted drawings on wallpaper.

【Online Viewing】

協力:Matterport by wonderstock_photo

【About Makiko Kudo’s works: Depicting Moments in which Everyday Landscapes “Suddenly Appear to Shine.”】

From the change of light due to seasonal transitions and the passage of time, to moments when landscapes seen during a usual stroll “suddenly appear to shine,” roads once walked along which come to mind with its surrounding scenery, plants, flowers, animals, and people that were encountered there, as well as the words that touched one’s heart –Kudo embraces things within daily life that are normally overlooked by means of her unique sensitivity, expanding these images through her own emotions, and depicting them with dynamic yet detailed brushstrokes.

In her work, multiple settings and perspectives overlap and develop simultaneously, creating a distinct feeling of floating and vibrant liveliness. The plants and animals that Kudo cherishes instill her paintings with an abundant sense of vitality and strength. At the same time, her color palette consists of a mixture of vibrant and subdued hues, while the boys and girls that appear to permeate with an air of melancholy of sorts exude an ephemeral tranquility, as if searching for a place to settle down. As the artist herself states, “I feel that in my works I express emotion through both people and the landscape” *1, the motifs and backgrounds blend together organically, giving the impression of a dream-like world within one’s memory.

Kudo mentions being deeply impressed by the nature, animals, manga and anime that she had encountered during her childhood, as well as the works of Matisse and Bonnard who were influenced by the Post-Impressionists, which in turn serve as inspirations in the production of her work. She states, “Ultimately, you could say that I am depicting light.” The way in which she captures and expresses the changing light could perhaps be regarded as being a part of the genealogy of Impressionists that continues to the present day.

【On the New Drawings: Wallpaper and Ballpoint Pen –Direct and Free Expression through Familiar Materials】

This exhibition introduces the artist’s latest drawing works that are not only produced on paper, but which also illustrate her first attempt to employ wallpaper as her support medium.

For Kudo, the act of drawing is similar to photography or taking a Polaroid, in which the image one wishes to depict is directly emitted and depicted within a short span of time. Her way of overlaying lines drawn with a ballpoint pen bear similarities to the images of the manga she had been influenced by in the past, and she also mentions the fun of being able to increase the density like in copperplate printing. Furthermore, working on paper makes the colors appear much brighter, enabling her to develop a free sense of expression that cannot be realized through conventional painting.

In the work “untitled,” drawn on paper with ballpoint pen and color, the artist draws inspiration from a sewage treatment facility located along a road that she often walks along, and as its building appeared reminiscent of a plant pot, she depicts an array of colorful plants along with fairy-like figures and a cat that stares straight ahead, creating a fantastical landscape.

The artist herself states as follows regarding her drawings on wallpaper in a booklet edited by art critic Hans Ulrich Obrist.
“No matter how cheap or how much of it is left over, I find myself being scared of white paper.
When I was at nursery, I was given sheets of drawing paper and was told many times to draw bigger.
Nevertheless I drew small. I was embarrassed to be seen, and thought it was a waste of paper and crayon.
Perhaps it was because my family was poor, or merely due to my character.
As I lived in a place where there were far more apple trees than people, I used fallen green apples and chalk to draw pictures on the street.
At home, I drew with a pencil on the back of flyers.
The wallpaper I used are just leftovers, and most of the paints are the remainders of those from my oil paintings.
It is not really about being ecological, but is a simple reflection of the fact that I haven’t changed since my childhood.”

【On Her New Paintings: “Reborn As Air” –Strength and Openness that Connect with Reality, Making an Effort to Move Forward Towards a Brighter Place】

The title of this exhibition and new painting “Reborn as Air” is inspired by something that a friend of hers had said several years ago when their kitten passed away due to an illness. “I want to be reborn as air and help animals breathe.” Kudo was profoundly shocked by these words, and had developed a desire to express this feeling of compassion. Numerous animals, faces and people float like air on a hill overlooking the city at sunset. This work reflects Kudo’s change in her way of thinking about “human beings.”

Up until now, Kudo’s works have featured one or two people and animals. Kudo had originally found difficulty in communicating with humans and maintaining an optimal sense of distance, feeling that she could get along better with animals. However, she mentions developing a feeling of affection towards human beings, seeing them being swayed by the effects of the virus amidst this pandemic.

The artist states as follows regarding the exhibition.
“I used to think that drawing or painting could perhaps be a cause for someone’s unhappiness, and this is something that I still continue to be afraid of. Materials are indeed a limited resource, and the feeling of guilt is like scraping away the mountains, robbing animals of their habitats, and consuming precious stones. Some people may gain an unpleasant feeling from viewing the works. We are of course in the midst of a pandemic, and I feel somewhat helpless, but I want to make an effort to move towards a brighter place. Regardless of whether people may laugh at me, I continued to draw and paint day after day in hopes to bring even the slightest happiness to people.”

In the new work “Reborn as Air,” the figures appear to permeate with a much stronger sense of realness than in her previous oeuvre. Depicting multiple gentle faces on a single canvas can be regarded as an indication that Kudo, who in some ways was evasive of human society, had gained the strength and openness to connect with reality.

Hanae Nakao, curator of the Oyama City Kurumaya Museum of Art, states as follows regarding Kudo’s work.
“Kudo’s works are not based on a social message. However, they convey ways of dealing with loneliness that is richly cultivated in the midst of our contemporary society in which solitude and isolation is a social problem, the vitality of nature that resists mechanical rationalization, to remain unchanged within a changing society, and margins that are present in these accelerating times. Such things indeed encourage us viewers to think politically.” *3

Through viewing Kudo’s work, we recognize the importance of the deep dialogue between nature, animals, humans, and the world, as well as the joy of knowing that even in these closed circumstances, if one changes their perspective, the world will change and shine powerfully. We welcome viewers to embrace the world of Kudo’s latest works.

*1 “Contemporary Female Painters that Break Through the Canvas,” Bijutsu Techo, Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, March 1, 2017.
*2 A Journal for Contemporary Art Issue 4.5 (Ed. Hans Ulrich Obrist), Cork Street Gallery, October 12, 2020.
*3 Hanae Nakao, “The Richness and Strength of Being Alone: Makiko Kudo Exhibition,” Bijutsu Techo, Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, May 1, 2016.

For press inquiries, please contact: (Makiko Okado)

  • Installation view from “Reborn as Air” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2020 ©Makiko Kudo photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Reborn as Air” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2020 ©Makiko Kudo photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Reborn as Air” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2020 ©Makiko Kudo photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Reborn as Air” at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2020 ©Makiko Kudo photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • 会話 Conversation 2020 oil on canvas 91.0 x 91.0 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • 工藤麻紀子 Makiko Kudo よるに見える Visible at Night 2020 oil on canvas 53.1 x 45.9 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • 工藤麻紀子 Makiko Kudo 山分け Split the Mountain 2020 oil on canvas 33.3 x 24.2 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • 工藤麻紀子 Makiko Kudo untitled 2020 oil on wallpaper 35.9 x 23.8 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • 工藤麻紀子 Makiko Kudo untitled 2020 oil on wallpaper 20.2 x 18.7 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • untitled 2020 acrylic, pen on paper 54.8 x 79.0 cm ©Makiko Kudo
  • untitled 2020 pen on paper 27.1 x 19.9 cm ©Makiko Kudo