2 March to 22 April 2012, Lower Gallery
The gallery is pleased to present its first exhibition with Japanese artist Makiko Kudo. Kudo’s paintings are luxuriantly colourful explorations into the depths of imagination. These hauntingly beautiful paintings chart a quiet course between splendor and isolation.
Within Western culture particularly, fantasy and ideas of escapism are often associated with a whimsical abandonment of responsibility and indeed reality. Conversely, for Kudo’s generation, this introversive escapism was an active means of resistance against a depressed national economy and the unyielding social structures that defined Japan in the late 20th Century. This was a generation whose output was instead defined by the alter-realities of manga comics and the rising prevalence of computer games; an influence echoed in the cartoonish and surreal-like characters that populate Kudo’s paintings. Likewise, Kudo’s decision to revert into the bodies of these recurring impish figures can be equated with her generation’s resistance against the constraints of adulthood and perceived loneliness of such autonomy and social conformity. This was an artistic, as well as cultural, revolt against what was seen to be the uninspired perspective of the former generation.
These paintings effortlessly engage with the history of 20th Century painting; from Claude Monet’s water lilies to Henri Matisse’s Fauvist phase to the compositional complexity of William De Kooning’s canvases. Take for example After a Typhoon, 2011; the energetic brushwork and beautiful range of colours are redolent of the similarly wild brushstrokes and vibrant palette of the Fauvists. There are echoes too of the primitive wilderness of Rousseau’s dreamy landscapes in the lush foliage of Floating Island, 2012. Kudo also draws inspiration from classical Japanese imagery; the delineated shapes and sparseness of paint in areas, give the paintings the destabilising illusion of flatness that is evocative of Japanese woodblock printing. Subtle differentiations of foreground imbue this horizontality with the effect of a world suspended, engendering a dreamlike atmosphere. Kudo’s compositions, which she describes as ‘chaotic’, follow a playful yet mysterious oneiric logic, whereby unknown or indecipherable elements merge according to a pattern beyond the conscious mind. This puzzling relationship between the once known and now forgotten narratives of one’s dreams is akin to the experience felt whilst lost gazing into the depths of these paintings.
It is the synthesis of these references to 20th Century painting, classical Japanese imagery and the territories of Kudo’s own imagination, which define the artist’s practice. The disorientating union of the unknown and familiar, haunting and beautiful, magical and banal imbues these canvases with an enchanting quality that imaginatively transgresses boundaries and leaves us compellingly absorbed.