Inspired by the pictorial possibilities of the calligraphy of her native language, Japanese artist Ai Yamaguchi presents a new, unconventional series of paintings for her upcoming show at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York, “shinchishirin,” which opens on May 8. Her surreal portraits of young girls are flat yet rich with detail. The protagonists are embellished with geometric patterning and billowing locks of hair; their experiences become dreamlike and abstract instead of forming a linear narrative. These nymph-like characters, though nude, seem innocent and unaware of our gaze. They don’t pout or pose for the viewer, but rather seem lost in their own daydreams.
Yamaguchi makes her custom canvases by hand by wrapping wood panels with a cotton fabric and applying gesso to the surface, creating a ceramic-like effect. The surfaces on which she paints as as thought-out in her work as the imagery itself. Each canvas is modeled after the characters of words Yamaguchi does not like, written in an archaic form of Japanese calligraphy called hiranga. By invoking these words, Yamaguchi is able to reclaim power over the negative connotation they have for her. Her latest show, “shinchishirin,” is full of hidden wordplay (even the women’s hair is reminiscent of calligraphy brushstrokes) and poetry, though the imagery on its own is enough to captivate the viewer.
Ai Yamaguchi’s “shinchishirin” opens May 8 and will be on view through June 7 at Joshua Liner Gallery.
Ai Yamaguchi’s mural in progress at Joshua Liner Gallery.