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Anime Meets European Art Nouveau in Blossoming Female Portraits

Audrey Kawasaki and Stella Im Hultberg display never-before-seen works at the Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles.
November 16, 2016, 4:15pm
Enchantress (2016), Audrey Kawasaki, Oil and graphite on wood panel, 23.5" × 23.5", 60 × 60 cm. Images courtesy of Thinkspace Gallery

This article contains adult content. 

The sensual female characters of Asian American artists Audrey Kawasaki and Stella Im Hultberg take over the halls of the Thinkspace Gallery in a dual exhibition of new paintings. The follow-up to a a sold-out show in Switzerland two years ago, Interlude is one of the largest collections of work Kawasaki has ever showcased. Her paintings follow a single illusive muse: an ageless, erotically charged girl who is reinvented and reimagined in each composition. Kawasaki begins each work with pencil on a wood panel, her preferred surface for its “organic warmth and natural inconsistencies,” according to the the gallery. Once she completes a drawing, the panel is sealed with a gel medium. Kawasaki then gradually etches out her character by applying multiple layers of oil paint.

Rhapsody (2016), Audrey Kawasaki, Oil and graphite on wood panel, 24" × 24", 61 × 61 cm

Growing up in California to Japanese parents, Kawasaki’s bi-cultural upbringing had a strong impact on her visual style. Her paintings are defined by their particular combination of western and eastern aesthetics. The gallery suggests that her illustrative style owes itself to European Art Nouveau as much as it does the anime and manga she was raised on. Her works are clean and defined, but are encased within the glossy and exaggerated forms of an anime character. The eroticism of her paintings has spurred controversy in the past because of their subject’s youthful appearance and ‘innocent’ disposition. The gallery says Kawasaki’s muse is an expression of the artist’s freedom, “a vehicle through which Kawasaki has explored the feminine expressions of sexuality.”

Wandering (2016), Stella Im Hultberg, Acrylic on Wood, 20" × 16", 51 × 41 cm

In the project room of the Thinkspace Gallery is hollow resonance, an exhibition of works by self-taught South Korean artist Stella Im Hultberg. It contains a collection of mixed-media paintings that combine sumi ink, acrylics, watercolor, wood, and colored pencil. Im Hultberg produces mostly monochromatic canvasses but creates accents in her work through areas of strong contrast. Her paintings combine loose and abstract artistic elements with poignant figurative drawings. Decorative floral patterns and abstract colorscapes are incorporated into the backdrops of what are meticulously drawn portraits. Works like Regretfully Yours show an internal contest between the artist’s expressive painterly intuition and her fastidious tendencies as an illustrator.

Reverie (2016), Audrey Kawasaki, Oil and graphite on wood panel, 13" × 14.5", 33 × 37 cm

Drawing 04 (2016), Audrey Kawasaki, Ink graphite and colored pencil on paper, 6” x 8”, 15 x 20 cm

Interlude and hollow resonance are on display at the Thinkspace Gallery until December 3rd. You can learn more about the show on the gallery's website. To see more works by Audrey Kawasaki, visit her website. Click here to see more works by Stella Im Hultberg.


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