Emi Kuraya, Reflecting on Moments in Time
With a light hand, the young painter and illustrator expresses the need to bring internal darkness face to face with light.
Emi Kuraya in Studio © 2020 Emi Kuraya/KaiKai Kiki Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved | Courtesy Perrotin
A young girl standing still, eyes open wide, depicted in a manga style. The point of departure for Emi Kuraya’s work is capturing a moment, enigmatic, evanescent. It resembles a private journal in which the artist confides, externalises her feelings, and brings them face to face with herself and the audience.
Born in 1995, Japanese painter and illustrator Emi Kuraya has been a member of Kaikai Kiki, the art society founded by Takashi Murakami, since 2018. Having studied at Tama Art University, her work has already been presented at the largest art shows, from Hong Kong to New York.
Accumulating and expressing
‘The gap between the extraordinary, special moments and the uneventful daily life that goes on at home brings out the various lightness and darkness that have accumulated inside me. By depicting the past through the filter of the present, I am exploring such lightness and darkness’, Emi Kuraya explains as part of her exhibition Long Vacation at the Perrotin gallery in Shanghai (14 January until 26 March 2022).
In her paintings and illustrations, young girls are generally depicted alone, or with a pet. These adolescents, frozen, exude a sense of sweetness and innocence. However, the fact that it is impossible to grasp what these young girls are thinking leads the audience to imagine that this seeming serenity might be hiding some form of unease. These representations encourage reflection on the meaning of the moment. The artist’s decision to use pastel tones plays an important role in the sense that the sequences depicted are always captured between light and darkness, at the boundary between happiness and darker thoughts. In each piece, the chosen setting differs, offering the public a panorama of spaces into which to project themselves; urban, natural or private.
Although her body of work is now associated with the representation of female figures, in 2021, the artist found a photograph on the ground that depicted a couple by the seaside, which inspired her to create the painting Lovers — this was the first time a man had appeared in her work. ‘Boys don’t just represent the opposite sex for me, they are the absolute unknown. That’s why I wanted to start drawing portraits of boys, something I had never dared to do before: I needed to explore this territory’, Emi Kuraya concludes.
Emi Kuraya, ‘Hammock: Girl’ (2021) ©2021 Emi Kuraya/KaiKai Kiki Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved | Courtesy Perrotin
Emi Kuraya, ‘Lovers’ (2021) ©2021 Emi Kuraya/KaiKai Kiki Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved | Courtesy Perrotin
Emi Kuraya, ‘Brushing Teeth’ (2021) ©2021 Emi Kuraya/KaiKai Kiki Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved | Courtesy Perrotin
Emi Kuraya, ‘A puppy and a girl’ ©2021 Emi Kuraya/KaiKai Kiki Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved | Courtesy Perrotin
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