Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Chiho Aoshima featuring a selection of digital animation, sculptures, and hand-painted works. This marks the artist’s premiere presentation in Hong Kong and her first solo show with Perrotin in Asia.
In the fantastical images Chiho Aoshima has created—whether in her early digitally created work or her most recent experimentation with hand-painted ceramics—buildings turn into fairy-like creatures; trees walk and talk; nymphs wander the graveyard; and even in apocalyptic images, such as of tsunamis, one sees a new world thriving after the end of the world. Her work kindles our imagination for an otherworld that is invisible to us yet is all around us.
Aoshima first attracted global attention for the fascinating otherworldly imagery she created using Adobe Illustrator in the early 2000s. The digital medium offers the versatility for the output of her images: they can be printed as ink-jet or chromogenic prints of any size, and can be mounted on plexiglas as a framed work or cover an entire wall as a mural. Aoshima’s mural installations at London’s Gloucester Road Underground station and at New York’s Union Square Subway station turned her digitally generated art into large-scale public art, prompting even indifferent and harried New Yorkers pause and pay attention to her anthropomorphic skyscrapers.
When I first saw Chiho’s work, I was so drawn into the fantastic world she created and I was so impressed by the incredible imagination she has. But it’s not just a world she imagines, she really thinks that world exists, it’s just not quite visible to us.
With no formal training in art, Aoshima has been practicing watercolor drawings, and produced several hundred pieces in the past several years. Moimoi, an avatar of Aoshima, likes playing around in nature and graveyards in particular. Through Moimoi, it feels as if we can enter Aoshima’s fantasy world: we can hear her talking to other creatures lingering in the graveyards, and see her getting excited or frustrated, concerned or relieved.
Aoshima’s imagery of spirits, goddesses, nymphs, plants, and even buildings, already bursting with life in her paintings, gained even more vivacity in her video work. City Glow (2005), Aoshima’s first animation work, creates a cyclical narrative in which a day elapses in a seven-minute loop. Takaamanohara (2015), a multiple-channel video projection with 3D soundscape, debuted in Seattle in 2015 and subsequently was shown in Tokyo and other places. In this work, the whole world undergoes a life cycle in a seven-minute loop. An enchanting landscape populated by anthropomorphic buildings, spirited animals, and fairy-like figures is born in the wake of a volcano eruption, but has to be rebuilt following a devastating tsunami.
A casual suggestion from a potter friend four years ago prompted Aoshima to venture into ceramics. Hand-moulded and intimately sized, these ceramic characters—Moimoi among others—come to life in three dimensions. Feeling she may have found a better medium, Aoshima is currently devoting her energy in making ceramics, challenging herself to create larger sized works.
Aoshima’s deep interest in Japan’s religious traditions, Shinto in particular, is evident in her work. She believes in something spiritual that transcends the “sad but unescapable realities of this world,” and in the cycle of death and rebirth.
The evolution of human civilization is great; humankind thinks nature precious, but it is difficult for humankind and nature to coexist. I represented these two souls that cannot understand each other through images of buildings and mountains.
Born in 1974 in Tokyo, Japan
Lives and works in Kyoto, Japan
Chiho Aoshima started her art practice in the 1990s, rising to prominence with the international debut of her masterful, digitally rendered work in the acclaimed Superflat exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2001.
A self-taught artist and an early member of the Japanese art collective Kaikai Kiki, she began working in Adobe Illustrator before expanding into traditional media namely drawing, watercolor, and, more recently, ceramics. Otherworldly figures and dreamlike landscapes depicting childlike spirits, anthropomorphic flora, fauna, and even skyscrapers, feature in Aoshima’s Illustrator-drawn prints and murals, hand-painted works, and digital animations (in collaboration with New Zealand animator Bruce Ferguson).
Distinctly feminine and spiritual, the worlds and their inhabitants Aoshima has created are built on the natural world, playful and often humorous, belying melancholy and darkness. This duality is to be found in other characteristic themes—utopia/dystopia, nature/technology, natural/artificial—through which she explores ideas relating to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Deeply influenced by Japanese religious and cultural beliefs, her work is rooted in Shintoism, folklore, and art historical traditions, which she interprets in a contemporary context to express her views on the future, humankind’s coexistence with nature, and the realities of our rapidly changing world.
Aoshima’s work has been the subject of major public art projects, most notably her mural-scale dreamscapes commissioned for London’s Gloucester Road Underground station and New York’s Union Square Subway station. She has held solo presentations at institutions worldwide including the Seattle Art Museum, which curated the artist’s most significant survey exhibition to date; the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK; and Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon.
Photo: © Kentaro Matsumoto