As a form of expression, art offers practically endless possibilities to those looking to tell a tale. Be it a representation of memory, fiction, reality, all of them combined or, yet, none of them at all, the empty space of the canvas is able to assume the form of any given reality, and Audrey Kawasaki uses it well. By merging together several influences in her paintings, she creates vivid narratives that are alluring to both the eye and thought. Depicting a single girl in many of her reflections, the viewer may feel like going down the rabbit hole and exploring the Wonderland of both sensuality and innocense with Alice.
Audrey Kawasaki is an American artist, born in 1982 in Los Angeles, California. She is known for her figurative, erotically charged paintings which portray a young woman (the artist claims that it is the same girl, although she may seem different). Kawasaki works with oil paintings, applying paint directly onto the smooth wood panels which allows the wood grain to merge with the image. Her art, influenced by the artist such as Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt, seems like a blend of Japanese manga and Art Nouveau.
The painter attended Pratt Institute in New York and studied fine art painting for two years. The time spent in college was enough for Kawasaki to realise where she stands, and she left the school without earning her degree. One of the reasons was the different approach and style of the New York art scene. Her figurative and illustrative style was not encouraged at the Pratt Institute, where the focus was on conceptual art.
In 2005, Audrey worked on Alice Smith's For Lovers, Dreamers & Me cover art. In 2006, Los Angeles started buzzing about Audrey Kawasaki, the emerging star of LA art scene. In 2011, her painting My Dishonest Heart was featured in the episode of LA Ink show, when Kat Von D tattooed it on singer Christina Perri's skin. Popular publications such as Juxtapose (her work was on the 2012 January cover), The Los Angeles Times, NY Arts Magazine, Complex Magazine, Vogue Australia and Hi-Frustose wrote about Audrey Kawasaki's art. The artist also began working on commercial products such as mint boxes Hint Mint artist series and phone skins for Gelaskins.
Kawasaki's pieces blend the opposites - innocence and erotica. They are both sad and visually appealing, a fusion of Art Nouveau and manga comics. Her paintings portray melancholy and sensuality of a young naked girl, lost in her thoughts. The subject is lonely and longing for something but at the same time confident, sexual and powerful in her vulnerability. The artist starts by sketching the woman's face, torso, chest, legs and arms; then she continues with brushing in the lights and darks. The girl in the painting has big eyes due to the Kawasaki's love for manga and anime, and the painting denotes a ghost-like presence. Kawasaki insists that the paintings are not self-portraits. Her works have become darker over the years and they frequently feature cranes, crocodiles, spirits, demons and dead rabbits.
The artist's oeuvre has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at galleries around the world, in the cities such as Rome in Italy, Los Angeles and New York in the United States, Tokyo in Japan and Melbourne in Australia. The venues where she exhibited include Merry Karnowski Gallery in Los Angeles, California; Space Yui in Tokyo, Japan; Roq la Rue in Seattle, Washington; Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, California; Outre Gallery in Melbourne, Australia; and Yves Laroche L'Autre Galerie in Montreal, Canada.
One could admire, and even get lost in the beautifully colored pieces of Audrey Kawasaki, yet there's a lot more to the aesthetics of her paintings. Within the confines of the canvas, the rich narrative holds a lot of symbolism and both the erotically charged and innocent portrayals usually have a story to tell. With her name being spoken far across the globe, she is one of the young artists to be watched in the contemporary art scene.
The artist is represented by Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York.
Featured image: Audrey Kawasaki
All images courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery