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Art Watch : Kumi Machida

Kumi Machida is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Looking upon the works of Kumi Machida, one may see haunting biomorphic humans, who are awakening from surreal dream-like states. But it is a question of perspective. Machida’s art presents an alternative view of Japanese contemporary art. One that is separate from the obsession with “kawaii”. Kawaii or cute Japanese art has been immortalised by the pop culture icon of Hello Kitty. Machida engages with a different side of Japanese culture. A side more invested in history, medium and prolonged looking. It is indeed an energetic call to action– rethink Japanese contemporary art!

One may say there is an austerity to her brushwork, which lends a darker nuance to the apparently tranquil beings. The fine layered lines, define forms and voids, lending the works a deadpan absurdity. 

Why Kumi Machida?

One might think that the thick and vigorous lines have been drawn with potency. But on closer inspection it is revealed that they are thin lines drawn repeatedly to give strong impression. The motifs used in her artworks change from objects (for example, Japanese good luck charms) to universal and ambiguous things. As a result of this change, preciseness of the lines has improved more. And the originality of her way of expression has come to a new stage.

Machida certainly knows how to create an atmosphere that is surreal. Black bold line stands out from the canvas and the strong image remains afloat in the minds eye. She creates an image to to represent what is happening in the real world.

Machida’s practice has its roots in traditional Japanese painting in sumi ink on  kumohada linen paper, with limited colouring from mineral pigments. Her brushstrokes are deliberate and modulate between a delicacy to strong intensity, bringing an unknown presence into sharp relief with sparing clarity. 

Art & Artistic Journey

In one of her seminal work’s “honeymoon with life,” the two beings seem to be connected, however their relationship status is unclear, and their gender ambiguous. The eyes staring into the void, adds to their enigma, distancing the artist from her subject, the art work from the viewer.

It does raise the possibility that these conjoined forms could be a reconciliation of an ‘otherness within the self’, or an embracing of differences with others. She is playing with alternative realities. 

Through each line Machida’s explores human relationships, self-consciousness and social awareness.

Machida through her free expressions  in the field of traditional Japanese paintings, has attracted through her works, many attentions. The remarkable points that still grab the eyes are the clear lines in Sumi on Kumohada papers and minimal coloring in mineral pigments.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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