Online gallery of Japanese contemporary art

Interview with Makiko Kudo at her solo exhibition in Tomio Koyama gallery

Makiko Kudo’s painting recalls your memory and opens your inner sense. Kudo has a very sensitive perception to discern what she likes and what she cares from her surroundings. She depicts what she felt carefully but dynamically on a canvas. Through the interview, you will know how many of her memories are hidden in one painting. And that must be the reason why her paintings stimulate your inner sense.

Makiko Kudo in front of her painting "Following everywhere"

Makiko Kudo in front of her painting “Following everywhere”

The scenery shines in my eyes

-How did you get interested in painting?

I liked to draw since I was little. I lived in a rural area where few people were around. So I liked to play by myself. Drawing was one of those.

I got to know there is an art college when I was in high school. I thought I want to challenge and enter an art cram school. I knew about oil painting after that. Choosing that method was only natural, without deep consideration.

Installation view from "Makiko Kudo" at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2013 ©Makiko Kudo Photo by Kenji Takahashi

Installation view from “Makiko Kudo” at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2013 ©Makiko Kudo Photo by Kenji Takahashi

-How do you choose the scenery you depict?

It is usually a place where I always pass by. At one moment, I feel that the scenery is shining in my eyes. It might be depending on how the sun or light is actually illuminating the place. But I feel like the scenery burned into my brain. Just like a photograph.

-How is that moment like?

Hmm,,, I don’t remember how my emotion is like at that moment, maybe calm… Sometimes, I see everything nice. I think everybody has that sense.

-Do you look for the scenery consciously?

I’m always searching for it. Watching outside, when I’m on a train. I like to see houses.

Sometimes, I feel depressed for finding nothing for a while. There is no method to get through that situation. I just wait until it comes.

-You often depict spring in your work but do you like that season?

I like winter actually. Although, I don’t draw that much about it. I don’t like summer, too hot, hahaha.

So the season you like and the season you get ideas are different.

Ah, right. I usually draw a beginning of spring. In summer, everything is glaring or garish. I don’t know how to express that colour. Everything is in strong green and all green looks the same.

Reconstructing the scenery in my mind

-Do you draw on a canvas as soon as you find the scenery?

I give some time and cherish the scenery. I start thinking of how to paint it or how the size should be like. I reconstruct it in my mind by cutting or pasting the elements. Compared to photograph, painting has a freedom to reconstruct it.

There are usually 2 to 3 images in my mind and I am always thinking about them.

“Moon landing” was the scene that I saw last summer and started paint this year, half a year later. It took too much time.

Makiko Kudo "Moon landing" (2013)

Makiko Kudo “Moon landing” (2013)

Detail of "Moon landing"

Detail of “Moon landing”

- It is interesting that some part of your painting looks unpainted.

One canvas consists of three types of layers. Some parts are in one layer, the others are in two or three layers. I thought it is fun to have many expressions.

Makiko Kudo "Following everywhere" (2013)

Makiko Kudo “Following everywhere” (2013)

Detail of "Following everywhere" Flower part is painted in one layer.

Detail of “Following everywhere” Flower part is painted in one layer.

- Do you first plan how to construct the layers of a painting?

Not really. I don’t plan?precisely?in the beginning. But it is more like ending up in that way. In a large painting, there are some part which is completely unpainted. It is simply fun to do so.

-How do you spend your days when you are working on a painting?

Once I start working, I stay at my studio. I can’t leave there even when it’s hard to paint. I finish one large painting in 7 to 10 days. Except the small works, I work on one piece at a time.

Not about good or bad but what I like and care

Exhibition view of Makiko Kudo solo show at at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery.

Exhibition view of Makiko Kudo solo show at at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery.

Detail of "I thought there was nobody" (2012)

Detail of “I thought there was nobody” (2012)

-This girl (image above) is wearing a funny hat.

When I was a child, I thought it should be fun to have an animal staying on my head. I could be with it all the time.

I saw animations of “Heidi, Girl of the Alps” (1974) and “Little Princess Sarah”(1985) from the series of World Masterpiece Theater (TV animation program based on classic tales from around the world) in my childhood. Those central characters were always with an animal. That was my ideal.

So I put my cat on my head, told by others that I will lose my hair, hahaha. However, the cat didn’t stay with me. When I saw a girl wearing this hat in a town recently, it reminded me of that memory.



Detail of "Penguins"

Detail of “Penguins”

-How about those penguins?

I won a ticket of an aquarium in Shizuoka and visited there with my parents. My parents were watching a dolphin show. The dolphin’s purity and braveness stroke my heart. I couldn’t stand watching it. So I moved out to see penguins which were just near by the show.

Penguins didn’t look poor to my eyes. It was time for feeding. Penguins were making a line in front of a breeding staff. When the one was fed, it was moved aside from the line. But they looked satisfied and their faces were happy.

Dolphins were swimming in a small pool right next to the ocean. It may not be a bad thing since they get food at the aquarium. I don’t know what is poor and what is not.

"Following everywhere"(left) and "Eyewitness testimony" (right) Installation view from "Makiko Kudo" at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2013 ©Makiko Kudo Photo by Kenji Takahashi

“Following everywhere”(left) and “Eyewitness testimony” (right)
Installation view from “Makiko Kudo” at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2013 ©Makiko Kudo Photo by Kenji Takahashi

Detail of a flower in "Eyewitness testimony" (right)

Detail of a flower in “Eyewitness testimony” (right)

-Is there a memory behind “Eyewitness testimony”?

This was a place where I always walked as a junior high school student. I didn’t know the name of the flower but I liked it. It blooms in the rainy season and falls down in a short term.

There was a large house near this place although it was quiet and looked lonely. I remember that I felt anxious at that time.

-Plants and nature often comes into your work but cut flowers are not seen.

I feel uncomfortable with cut flowers. They are like wastes to be thrown away, too well-managed or artificial to me.

It’s not about good or bad. It is simply about what I like or dislike, what I care or not.

Drawings of "The site" (left) and "Zawa zawa" (right)

Drawings of “The site” (left) and “Zawa zawa” (right)

-Unlike other paintings, these two works are on paper and the seasons are in winter.

These are the begging of winter. Plants died down and lightened by the sun.

I wanted to express the rough texture and pell-mell atmosphere. I couldn’t get an idea of how to express it on a canvas. Paper’s surface matched to express that rough texture.

These two drawings are depicting the same place. In this one, I felt like as if the plants are talking each other and the girl is listening. This place used to be a restaurant chain store.

Detail of "Zawa zawa" (2013) A girl listening the sounds.

Detail of “Zawa zawa” (2013) A girl listening the sounds.

Detail of "Zawa zawa"

Detail of “Zawa zawa”

-As you told me about the lonely house or the site of a former restaurant, you look interested in the place which is quiet although it is usually a place filled with sounds.

I may be attracted by the place where I feel as if something is existing or the place as if I can hear ?something.

-Why do you put a girl in your painting?

I wanted to put an emotion in my painting. There is no story or narrative in it. But when I am working on my painting, a story automatically comes up in my mind.

"Been here all the time?" (2013)

“Been here all the time?” (2013)

Detail of the girl in "Been here all the time?" (2013)

Detail of the girl in “Been here all the time?” (2013)

-What the reason for you to depict your memory on a canvas?

Hmm, I wonder myself why that is..? Maybe I want to organize or coordinate it.

-Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

Through the interview, Kudo shared her memory behind the paintings little by little. Her works recalled her personal memories of what she did in her childhood or what she felt uncomfortable about. However, even without knowing her personal memories on each works, the viewer can dive into the work with their own memories. What you feel depends on what you have experienced in your life. Her painting opens your inner sense, not quickly but gradually, assisting you to know who you are.


Interviewed on Feb 4, 2013. Text by Rasa Tsuda

Exhibition Info
Date: Jan16, 2013 – Feb 4, 2013
Place: 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery