Painting in Public

Painting in Public

Ayako Rokkaku

3 min read

Self-taught painter Ayako Rokkaku is one of Japan’s foremost contemporary artists. For the first time, any and everyone had the opportunity to partake in one of her live painting events. In another first, the event coincided with a timed print edition based on the artwork she was about to paint.

Working for 8 hours, from empty canvas to rippling dreamscape, Rokkaku invited collectors worldwide to take a leap of faith. In doing so, asking how, what, when – and why – we collect.

Ayako Rokkaku paints from the heart. Energetic and emotionally-charged, her canvases exude freedom. Foregoing preparatory studies or underpainting, Rokkaku works with her fingers – spontaneity her guiding force as she conjures dizzying scenes flecked with fluorescent hues and occupied by plucky heroines. Painting as much a moment or feeling as a vocation or discipline.

Rokkaku extends the legacies of Superflat. During her ascent to the art world’s apex, live paintings have become a signature – intimate occasions where a select few can witness her free-flowing process. For our first collaboration Rokkaku shared this process exponentially more widely, captivating a global audience with her inimitable combination of understatement and audacity.

neatly arranged tubes of colourful acrylic paint
grand domed ceiling seen from below flanked by fiddle leaf fig trees
A freestanding sign reading 'AYAKO ROKKAKU PAINTING LIVE' over a big orange hand

Old Sessions House, London

Dear Ayako, you already stole my heart. You have the gift to turn a sad dark rainy day into a bright shiny one. Arigato!

Anonymous viewer
Ayako Rokkaku contemplating a blank canvas in her studio

Live in London

The performance took place at a former courthouse in central London. A two metre wide blank canvas was set beneath a twinkling chandelier as paints and tools were prepared for the artist's arrival. No brushes, only paper bowls and an eclectic palette combining classic pigments and flashes of neon.

With an air of nonchalance Rokkaku began painting, calmly sweeping acrylic across the blank surface to give an early suggestion of colour, composition and emphasis. An air likely aided by her obliviousness to a rapidly growing audience online.

Ayako holding a paper bowl which she is using as a paint palette
Ayako starting a big painting with broad strokes in orange, red and yellow
Ayako Rokkaku squeezing green acrylic paint from a big tube into a paper bowl

Throughout the day, more than 10,000 watched the livestream, discussed Rokkaku's progress, asked questions and placed their orders for a print edition based on the artwork they were watching unfold. A speculative crescendo preceded the appearance of a figure, until a sweep of blonde hair revealed that a blue dress had been hiding in plain sight. Brown eyes followed, and a girl emerged from the technicolour clouds which now enveloped the canvas.

Time to spare? Revisit all 8 hours and 41 seconds of the livestream.

Ayako Rokkaku painting a red scrunchie
open and half-used tubes of acrylic paint on a metal bench and on the floor

It’s incredible to see her create a masterpiece from scratch.

Anonymous viewer
colourful semi-abstract painting, just-finished with half-used paint tubes on the floor surrounding it

Untitled, Ayako Rokkaku

Painting to print

At the point Rokkaku stepped away from her painting, satisfied, it was hard to believe she had started it just eight hours prior.

The next day, a second stage began. Less spontaneous, equally intricate. Printmakers at Make-Ready embarked on an accelerated proofing process for the edition that thousands of collectors had already purchased as they watched Rokkaku paint. Careful separations, high-spec flatbed printers and UV-cured varnish were all used to faithfully recreate her vision. Fidelity preserved. Effervescence intact.

Once tests were underway, Rokkaku visited Make-Ready to facilitate key decisions and oversee the application of her signature stamp.

Ayako Rokkaku looking at a very big UV flatbed printer
Ayako Rokkaku discussing the proof for her print edition with a printmaker wearing a yellow cap
bottom left corner of a print, numbered 1/3591
view from above of Ayako Rokkaku in an industrial printmaking studio

Make-Ready, London

As prints began to arrive on doorsteps around the world, less than a month after the reference work was painted, collectors expressed their excitement to own a part of Rokkaku's compelling story – and a fragment of her freedom-fueled world.

Sharing art is important.

Anonymous viewer

Rokkaku's untitled edition was available to order for 24 hours only, and no further prints will be made. Don’t miss the next one! Subscribe, follow and discover upcoming collaborations.

Livestream · Jackshoot
Studio film · Bianco Bianco Tokyo
Stills · Jada Giwa, Tim Craig
Artwork courtesy of Ayako Rokkaku

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