Maiko KOBAYASHI | 小林 麻衣子
* NOUVELLE GARDE DE L’ART CONTEMPORAIN JAPONAIS, Sophie Cavaliero, 2011
Man is nothing more than what he makes of himself…
This quote form Sartre could just as well illustrate Maiko Kobayashi’s work, which deals with existential issues differently than simply offering an escape to some fantasy world.
The mushroom has now disappeared from the creative arena, yet the understanding of the world’s sufferings is still every present. Maiko Kobayashi must have heard the voice of Hashizume Bun, writer of The Day the Sun Fell. I was 14 years Old in Hiroshima. For Maiko Kobayashi, action starts with the understanding of other’s feelings, it means being able to relate one’s emotions to those of others.
This is why Maiko Kobayashi features a series of recurring characters depicted as either isolated or in a group in her paintings. We need to look beyond its cute, Kawaii aspect to understand its purpose. The character is a hybrid, half human, half animal. Rabbit, dog or cat, animals intermingle to highlight its humanity, most noticeable in its looks and postures.
What are these creatures? These beings fill her creative space and are the vessels to every human emotion. When we look at her artwork, we are overwhelmed with emotions and each piece becomes an object of fascination. It seems more about sadness and suffering than about joy. The media has been manhandled: the paintings’ edges are ruined, and the drawing paper is torn up then fixed with bandaid like paper – as if to cover a wound. The act of creation is now an act of sympathy.
Her painting technique is rather specific: Maiko Kobayashi first paints a monochrome background over a layer of gesso then she draws her characters. Afterwards, she paints another background erasing the characters so she has to draw them again. She proceeds to repeat this same action as many times as needed for her creatures to seem to appear from the depths of the canvas, as if they were born from the wood itself.
The existential issue is raised once again: “Does existence precede essence?” The viewer’s empathetic gaze upon the creature allows it to reach a new degree of existence it didn’t have otherwise.
The content, at first seemingly trivial, now displays profound philosophical implications, and we’re surprised to find ourselves staring at the artwork, trying to contain our emotions – or not. Once you’ve encountered work by Maiko Kobayashi, it’s not easily forgotten.
Maiko Kobayashi undertook extensive research to achieve the final design of her creatures, including a series of sketches on newsprint during her journey to the United Kingdom. These small bits of paper are on display, pinned to her wall; their shapes vary according to the artist’s whimsy. These sketches are just as many small portrayals, questioning our existence and our ability to get to know others as well as ourselves.
* The article from “Gallery Reviews”, < BIJUTSU TECHO >, Vol. 56, Chieko Hirano, 2004
I met a strange drawing. Drawn on an oblong sheet of paper hanging on the front wall of a gallery are ten figures, each of them in some way intersecting a simple line that represents a balcony, or else a table. They are neither arranged in dramatic poses and gazing with facial expressions not unlike one might see on the figures in a historical or religious painting, nor do each of the figures possess what one might call individual characteristics or personalities. Rather, these is no reciprocal tie that binds them together, no indication even that they’re looking outside the world of the painting. One might think it is as if they are looking at nothing at all. And these ten people — well, they’re not even human beings; rather, they are creatures that are indistinguishably either part rabbit or part dog.
“I don’t draw humans,” says the artist, Maiko Kobayashi. “And they aren’t characters.” Yet in producing so many drawings of these creatures, she’s thoroughly researched the lines which make up their facial expressions. These characters — to use a crude word — are more than simplified projections of the artist’s imagination; rather, they are perhaps shapes which arise from a psychological cause-and-effect mechanism. In order to explore the possibilities of such an empathy, let’s investigate the bodies, faces, and expressions of the figures. As regards these other-worldly figures, an “expression” is not a thing that relates emotion; rather, it is something that merely exposes itself as not existing outside the subject being studied. The nature of the “expressions” in these drawings is very much the same thing. In this drawing, one can see the off-the-cuff energy even in lines that have been drawn in charcoal and then rubbed away. Lines float to the surface from where paper streamers have been overlapped and erased with gesso. On top of even this, the limbs of these creatures are bizarrely long. One might get the feeling that the hands are long with an indescribable gentleness.
Though intended as marginal art, and though perhaps at first it might seem mismatched, truly I got the feeling from the implementation of the style, the arrangement of the lines and the pursuits of the facial expressions that it was all an experiment in approaching life and emotion.
wrote by Ms. Chieko Hirano (art critic)