Hideaki Kawashima

Soothing renditions of the ever-ambiguous human experience.

Hideaki Kawashima (he/him) was born in 1969 in Aichi, Japan, and now lives and works in Tokyo.

Collaborations

Kawashima was commissioned by FIFA to create the official print edition for the Brazil World Cup in 2013, where his work featured alongside that of artists such as William Kentridge, Antonia Bandeira, Keith Haring and Fernand Léger.

Did you know?

Before beginning his artistic career in 2001, Kawashima trained in classical Buddhism at Hieizan Enryakuji Temple and was a practicing monk for two years.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Hideaki Kawashima uses portraiture to expose the ambiguities of human life. Rendered in subdued palettes of seamlessly-blended oils, his wide-eyed characters express a spectrum of emotions: fear, desire, angst, longing. Said emotions, however, are never singular or overt. Similarly, androgynous facial features set gender identities in flux and small ghost-like creatures symbolise the blurred boundary between physical and spiritual realms. Playful touches of folklore, mythology and surrealism surface throughout, drawing influence from painters such as Mark Ryden and Pierre et Gilles. Having emerged in 1990s Japan alongside artists like Yoshitomo Nara, Kawashima’s work sits within the Superflat movement, contributing to the establishment of rich new legacies for manga and anime-influenced figuration.

Self-portraiture is a contested territory for Kawashima. During the 2000s his works were often interpreted by critics as allegorical self-portraits. However he has stated that, looking back, he sees the elements of surrealism in these earlier works as “masks” which served to conceal his identity rather than reveal it. Paintings from the 2010s see a distinct shift in style, incorporating domestic backgrounds and discernibly human torsos which root their subjects more firmly in reality than their predecessors. These paintings, he concedes, are indeed self-portraits, albeit indirect – an “idol reflected in the mirror.” A compelling rendition of contemporary introspection, Kawashima's figures, above all, embody the multifaceted experience that unites us all - feeling.

“Each painting was an act of suffering. Until I was done with one piece, I couldn’t move on to the next one.” Hideaki Kawashima