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Erina Matsui’s Hallucinatory, Distorted Self Portraits

Japanese artist Erina Matsui has earned much attention for her hallucinatory portraits that feature the artist herself as the focal subject. Her distinct style is founded on her tendency to enlarge and distort her features, whether stretching them across her canvas or placing them in the midst of surreal transformation.


Japanese artist Erina Matsui has earned much attention for her hallucinatory portraits that feature the artist herself as the focal subject. Her distinct style is founded on her tendency to exaggerate and distort her features, whether stretching them across her canvas or placing them in the midst of surreal transformation.



Her artist statement reads: “Of all categories of art, my practice has been focused on self-portraits, which can be most primitive and fundamental yet extremely tricky. I have been exploring my own unique way of approaching these propositions. In the simple process of painting, this practice has been something like a navigation system for me to find emotions and ideals that I have not yet been aware of. I always find two overlapping perspectives in this process: eyes to observe myself and eyes to see something familiar.”



Matsui has used her art to explore her personal relationship with the aesthetics and values of Japanese kawaii (or “cute”) culture, which has become both a national and global phenomenon. Her self portraits often portray the artist surrounded with cutesy characters and stuffed toys, evoking a sense of nostalgia and love for all things childlike that are attributed to the kawaii movement.


Her works can take on an absurd, humorous, or even disturbing quality, such as “Docomodake”, in which the artist’s face is conjoined with that of the popular mascot for mobile phone company NTT DOCOMO, Inc. On her website, Matsui shares, “Growing up in Japan surrounded by values of KAWAII had certainly affected me. I believe my paintings are made by comparing myself and the world that enjoys such culture.”


Matsui was born in 1984 in Okayama, Japan and is currently based in Tokyo. She studied oil painting at the Tama Art University and Tokyo University of the Arts. Her works have been acquired by the Pigozzi Collection (New York), Takahashi Collection (Tokyo), Ohara Museum (Okayama) and Foundation Cartier (Paris).



Currently, Matsui is featured in a solo exhibition titled Planet of the Face, on view at the Kirishima Open-Air Museum in Kagoshima until September 19. Matsui also creates art in the form of installation and sculpture, which can be viewed on her website.

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