Part companion, part autobiography, LUV is the name given by Japanese artist LY to the amorphous figure who inhabits her monochrome paintings.
Reliving LY's own experiences, LUV skulks through cityscapes, nature and domestic scenes collecting precious moments – and objects to remember them by. Skateboards and fast food nod to her youth in Tokyo. Flowers and dogs, to life with her daughter.
At the same time, the artworks – tinged with "I’ve felt that too" existentialism – call on universal feelings and experiences. LUV lives out a collective impulse to be the protagonist of our own stories, however innocuous they are, and speaks to the ways we endure and understand life as one of many millions.
Opportunities to collect
LUV'S BURGERS and LIVING WITH LUV offer hand-painted bronze renditions of LY's mysterious subject. LUV'S DOG "PARK", meanwhile, celebrates a recent four-legged addition to the world of LUV and arrives in a bespoke metal case. A pair of hoodies printed with paintings from the pop-up complete the selection.
To find out about opportunities to collect original artworks, send us an email.
In conversation with LY
LUV is ready to start wandering around again, to find new things and explore new places.
As paintings were hung and sculptures polished, we talked to LY about recent developments in the world of LUV and her first ever trip to London.
Congratulations on the show! Can you tell us where the title, Living with LUV, comes from?
Thank you! The big story behind Living with LUV is that at some point in our lives we find precious things and stay close to them. In my work, LUV is on a journey looking for those precious people, moments and objects. I also felt the title fit well with the artworks I create in collaboration with Avant Arte – loved by, and living together with, the people who collect them.
Does LUV move easily from two to three dimensions, and has working with sculpture influenced your painting?
In my mind LUV is always 3D. But once translated into a painting, I sometimes struggle to understand how they would look from different angles. Making sculptures helps me understand LUV from every angle. More importantly, my sculptures have influenced the way I paint. I mixed and introduced more tones of grey to give the world I paint greater depth and dimension. I also love showing the two – paintings and sculptures – together in one space.
The hoodies you designed feel very much like something LUV would wear. Why did you decide to create them alongside the editions?
I’ve turned down a lot of apparel collaborations in the past, but this time it felt right. The inspiration for LUV came from skaters in Tokyo, so a hoodie is their must have item. LUV is also very good at self love, which explains why they have their own face on the hoodies. Unlike sculptures and paintings, which stay at home, people can wear the hoodies and take LUV with them to explore the world. To my eyes, whenever I see people wearing clothes with LUV on they become LUV too. I hope this allows them to absorb some of LUV’s confidence and positivity – and spread the word!
LUV is beyond human – like a goddess, calmly and quietly observing.
LUV’s expression never changes, but from their surroundings and poses it feels like we often know how they are feeling. How do you perceive LUV’s emotions, and are they similar to ours?
LUV is beyond human – like a goddess, calmly and quietly observing the world around them. I used to paint negative emotions all of the time. LUV was born when my paintings started to portray more positive emotions, so will always be closely tied with these feelings for me.
Is LUV happiest in nature?
LUV and I both like nature more than the city. For me, forests are places that lead to somewhere new, and so in my paintings they represent transition or transformation. I know that LUV is very happy when they are walking through the forest.
LUV often looks straight ahead. To the future, you've said. What does the future hold for LUV?
I don’t know what LUV and I will do next. Our lives are always in parallel. This is my first time in London, and I have found so much inspiration. I feel that LUV’s greyscale world is well established by now, and that’s why they often sit or stand still. LUV is ready to start wandering again, to find new things and explore new places. That’s why my first pink painting shows LUV walking through the forest. It’s a new beginning, a new journey. I’m excited, because what LUV discovers will give me new subjects to paint.
One of the paintings on display introduces a new colour palette. We’d love to hear more about it. What inspired you to start painting in pink after years of grey?
I always looked around the world – cities, buildings, nature – and saw it in greyscale. A lot of people think differently, but to me the colour grey has so much energy and variety, and helped me to understand and expand my possibilities for portraying the world.
Like some of my motifs, the new colours are inspired by someone precious to me. Playing and drawing with Lu made me realise that I liked different colours. I used to wear black and grey all the time, and never found other colours to be beautiful. Since becoming a mother, everyday is a surprise and a new discovery. Pink was also my mother’s favourite colour.
This is the first time you’ve travelled to London. What are your plans?
I’m excited to spend time in parks and green spaces. As I walk around, I’ll be imagining where LUV would go, what they would do – and what kind of image that might be.
Visit the pop-up
Dray Walk Gallery
91 Brick Ln, E1 6QL
Friday 16 June 2023 · 10:00–19:00
Saturday 17 June 2023 · 10:00–19:00
Sunday 18 June 2023 · 10:00–19:00
Photography · Freya Najade
Artworks · LY
For more on LY, visit her artist page.