Susumu Kamijo

Nonchalant poodle glamour takes centre stage.

artist stood between two poodle paintings
sculpture of poodle in front of larger painting of pink poodle
artist holding paintbrush up to purple poodle painting
5 images

Susumu Kamijo was born in 1975 in Nagano, Japan, and is now based in Brooklyn, New York.

Did you know?

The artist lives with his two dogs, one wire fox terrier and one poodle, the latter of whom has - quite evidently - provided a wealth of inspiration for his artistic practice.

Collaborations

Kamijo's debut Avant Arte edition, The Sinner at Dusk, was the first-ever time one of his inimitable pooches had been realised in 3 dimensions.

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Exhibitions

Practice overview

Kamijo is known for his colourful, stylised poodles. The Japanese artist works across paper and canvas using a mixture of materials including oil pastel, pencil and pen, as well as acrylic and oil paint. Kamijo’s use of block colour and isolated shapes accrue into recognisable compositions with a hard-edged, graphic style. Varied texture is created through cross-hatching, repetitive patterning and layering paint. Born in Nagano in 1975, Kamijo attests the blocked-out compositions of his work to ancient techniques of Japanese woodblock printing such as Ukiyo-e. The works also evoke the Obsessional artists, a movement fixated on the act of endless repetition spearheaded by Yayoi Kusama and Tomio Miki in 1960s Japan. Wide, minimalist landscapes bring a sense of perspective to Kamijo’s work, which plays with notions of domesticity and the everyday.

Kamijo’s practice centres around a process of deconstruction. In all of his works, particularly in paintings like Suppertime (2020) and The Pal (2020), the artist reduces his subjects to their most essential visual elements: ears are not ears, but undulating shapes; faces are not faces, but sharp linear contours. By doing this, Kamijo empties out the external meaning of his subjects and focuses on their pure aesthetic form. However, once the compositions have been reassembled, the abstracted parts evoke their original subject matter once again, now with fun and light-hearted new meaning.

Kamijo conveys an array of personalities and emotions through his pet portraits, while subtly tapping into wider cultural trends. In works such as The Champion (2017) and Today is the Day (2019) the dogs have an instagramable #offguard posture; while in paintings like Summer Wind (2018) the canine subject is full of regale self-importance, riffing off traditional modes of portraiture as reserved for the rich and powerful. When She Returned (2020) depicts an elegant pink poodle with its head earnestly tilted towards the ground. The fur is made up of Matisse-esque organic shapes, along with small repetitive dashes created by the paintbrush. Through its fun, vivid and intricate simplicity, the canvas becomes unavoidably endearing, evoking an empathetic warmth and playful affection. Through his uplifting compositions, Kamijo marries the joy of succinct design with that of humankind’s best friend.

“My partner is a dog groomer and one day, when I was helping her at her work, I just noticed their forms, and they looked good!” Susumu Kamijo