|Sometimes it’s OK to fall in love with pretty things and the alluring paintings of LA artist Audrey Kawasaki may well merit adoration through their aesthetic appeal alone, but there is a bit more to the gorgeous fantasy characters she creates on wood panel after wood panel. Death via skull imagery abounds in her works and sex is always brought up. Precious, pouty, sad-eyed and sexy, Audrey’s girls most often appear before us as if in the midst of their greatest indulgence, but right alongside the slightest of hints at the ephemeral nature of it all. In the end, all Audrey leaves for us to do after is wish we had been there for that (hopefully not so very) otherworldly moment too.|
Audrey Kawasaki – Whitney May
Sometimes it’s OK to fall in love with pretty things and the alluring paintings of LA artist Audrey Kawasaki may well merit adoration through their aesthetic appeal alone, but there is a bit more to the gorgeous fantasy characters she creates on wood panel after wood panel. Death via skull imagery abounds in her works and sex is always brought up. Precious, pouty, sad-eyed and sexy, Audrey’s girls most often appear before us as if in the midst of their greatest indulgence, but right alongside the slightest of hints at the ephemeral nature of it all. In the end, all Audrey leaves for us to do after is wish we had been there for that (hopefully not so very) otherworldly moment too.
Whitney May: Your depictions of young girls are difficult to describe as anything but utterly, stunningly alluring. Is it just that you value presenting the female form at its most beautiful or attractive or is there something else behind your consistent incorporation of this magnetic kind of glamour into your work? Might there be a darker side to all of this seductiveness?
Audrey Kawasaki: There is definitely a darker side to all of it. Often, a bit of melancholy and a tinge of misery or despair are sprinkled around their eyes. But it’s almost always very subtle, and covered up by things that are just aesthetically pleasing to me. I usually don’t even see these things until the end of the piece, and that’s one of the most exciting parts to me: watching the girls evolve into something I hadn’t originally planned.
There are particular moments where a girl will finally come alive, and during those moments, she becomes the epitome of ideal beauty to me—the flow of lines and her expression, as if I’ve finally "found her," but that fades, and she generally comes back down into a calm, finished piece.
WM: Your art almost always has a clear erotic tone lying just beneath its polished and painted, wooden surface. What is your personal relationship to these sexual undercurrents?
AK: I think I’m pretty comfortable with my sexuality—it was probably the largest driving force for me to start creating in the first place. Mostly because, in the paintings, with my girls, i can be fearless, daring and promiscuous. There are no limits, unlike dealing with life’s restrictions, day to day.
I think I might have actually settled down a bit with some of the recent pieces, or possibly I’ve backtracked to adolescence, when sex was just whispered.
WM: You work in paint, but most often throw out the canvas entirely in favor of the grains and textures of buffered wood. What exactly is it about these panels’ materiality that makes you pick them as your medium of choice?
AK: Wood really lends itself to the atmosphere of the painting. The white of canvas can be kind of overwhelming to me, actually. The tones and textures of certain woods are familiar and calming—even nostalgic, in a way. I’m pretty picky with wood types (and so are the oil paints), but if I’ve found a perfect piece—I can feel immediately grounded, and pieces will come out with ease. The specific grain in each piece definitely has a large part in beginning the line process, in a nicely organic and unpredictable way. That might be what I love most.
I also find the process of cutting and sanding really rewarding—it feels nice to get dirty and create a solid object with the curves you have in mind.
WM: Some of the females that you depict appear incredibly young—sometimes even adolescent—and yet have that same air of seductiveness that is present in the majority of your works. What resistance, if any, have you experienced in the reception of such pieces? Have you ever had to defend the subject matter of your art?
AK: I’ve never had to defend myself in regards to the girls, and I’ve actually never been directly confronted about it, until now.
But, really, I’d expect people to talk about these issues. Sex is controversial in general, much more so in some cultures than others. I think my personal background might have eased me into a place where there is less shame associated with sex, and maybe that allows these pieces to just happen freely, without any worries to tie me back.
To me, these girls have no age. Whether or not they are seductive or perhaps just having darker thoughts, most of them are pure on the outside (in their own, indefinable ways) and I think that look in their eyes comes off as adolescent to some.
Hearing varying opinions on these sorts of things can be really stimulating and inspiring, though, leading me down new paths. I don’t ever necessarily have a social statement to make with these imaginary girls, they just tend to grow into their own being. Because they look youthful doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of experiencing these confusing sexual thoughts, and I think that’s what most of these girls are dealing with—there is a lot of struggle in regards to those feelings when you’re younger.
WM: Your art seems to have some strong art historical influences. The impact of Art Nouveau, Japanese printmaking and anime on your aesthetic are almost undeniable. To what extent do you consider such art historical precedents when creating your work?
AK: I have definitely been influenced by Art Noveau and manga. I was inspired heavily by anime and manga when I was younger, and began drawing around that time. I think that might be why I always lean towards that comforting emphasis on line flow. Historical precedents, though, are something I never really think about. I paint what feels good to me, aesthetically, and my idea of beauty is influenced by a large whirlpool of things.
WM: Who do you consider when you are creating? Is there any particular audience that your mind focuses on when planning out a new project or is it part of a journey or desire that is yours alone?
AK: I don’t have a particular set or group of people I paint for, at all. It’s definitely been a personal journey. I want to always keep it that way.