Makiko Kudo

Japanese painter Makiko Kudo blends memory and imagination to create serene, contemplative dreamscapes.

Kudo’s whimsical scenes are populated by girls, trees, grass, flowers and small animals. Her palette is soft but varied, built up in thinly applied layers of oil paint. Kudo draws inspiration from modernist painters such as Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Willem de Kooning, as well as classical Japanese art, and television shows from her childhood like Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974).

  • Hypnagogia, group show at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, 2018
  • Iconoclasts: Art Out of The Mainstream, group show at Saatchi Gallery, London, 2017
  • Makiko Kudo, solo show at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 2016
  • Makiko Kudo, solo show at Wilkinson Gallery, London, 2015
  • Work in collections inc. the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Olbricht Collection, Saatchi Collection, Flowerman Collection, the Japan Foundation and the Ryutaro Takahashi Collection.
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Studio Shoot

Stylistically, her manga-esque figures speak to the Superflat movement spearheaded by Takashi Murakami, contributing to a lineage of contemporary social resistance in Japan. Kudo explains that her generation was defined by the rise of alternate realities like fantasy cartoons and computer games, which provided an opportunity to evade the rigid social expectations of their parent’s generation. Kudo’s paintings much like the pages of a manga book proffer an exciting fantasy world for their viewer to escape to.

Becoming a Field by Makiko Kudo
Becoming a Field, Makiko Kudo, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Anthony Wilkinson Gallery.

Depth and scale are used by Kudo as tools to create the enthralling worlds of her paintings. In Becoming a Field (2014), a girl sits with a squirrel on her knee, surrounded by lush springtime foliage and quintessential Japanese architecture. The child appears giant-like, disproportionately large to her surroundings, and she floats in the centre of the composition as if not bound by gravity. Through these subtle twists on visual perspective, the painting becomes implicitly separate from our known reality. The lone figure with a pet is also a recurring motif for Kudo. In this painting and across the whole of Kudo’s practice, human-animal partnerships represent companionship found in spite of social isolation, and by extension, the freedom of being alone.

Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot

Notions of childhood and adulthood are central to Kudo’s oeuvre. Young figures in works like Floating Island (2012) and Translucent Animal (2019) are wrapped in daydreams far from the constraints of adult life, expressed as intricate yet loose brushwork which creates an idyllic, hazy atmosphere on the canvases.

Floating Island by Makiko Kudo
Floating Island, Makiko Kudo, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Saatchi Gallery.

The paintings wield a sense of nostalgia which is both hopeful and sad — aspiring for the freedom of youth, yet marred by the wisdom of hindsight. Channeling this nostalgia, Kudo’s paintings occupy a world defined by the quiet tensions between melancholy and peace, youth and maturity, reality and imagination.

All artworks courtesy of Makiko Kudo.
Studio shoot by Niko Wu.

Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot
Makiko Kudo Studio Shoot

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