I Am Here In Stasis, Waiting for You: Audrey Kawasaki

“taken”, Oil & graphite on wood 19×26, ‘Mayoi Michi’ @ Copro Nason

The work of 26-year-old painter Audrey Kawasaki, LA darling of the pop surrealist movement, always forces me into the persistent place between discomfort, cynicism and arousal.

On the one hand, her wood-panel paintings of languid, smooth and pale-skinned androgynous beauties are meticulously rendered with a sure hand and extreme eye for detail and aesthetic flow. The flawless pink and white skin of her sexy imaginary youngsters always seems to glow from within the image, the subjects look longing out with their impossibly big cartoon eyes as though they’re just aching to be touched, stroked, set free from their 2-D prison. The Art Nouveau-inspired flower, branch and seaweed forms that often surround the figures seems to undulate suggestively, giving the fantasy portraits a honey-slow-motion feel and matching soundtrack (in my head, anyway). I sort of want to go dunk my head in a bucket of icewater just thinking about the glistening parted lips and come-hither stares of her paintings. Ahem.

On the other hand, my intellectual mind can’t help leaping in to question the reactions of my lizard brain. Her style is incredibly consistent, almost to an obsessive degree; the figures she paints could all be related, and they all appear to exist in the same world, the same erotic melancholy state of waiting to be touched and taken. I am here in stasis, they say, I am waiting for you.

“Kakure Zakura”, Oil & graphite on wood 20×15, ‘Innocents’ @ Lineage

This creeps me out a little, and my own attraction to women depicted this way creeps me out, too. It’s actually the imagining of women in this state of trapped accessibility that relates Kawasaki’s delicate fine art paintings to some of the most run-of-the-mill pornography, and this connection ups the titillation ante of her work. I always wonder what causes female artists to recreate images of trapped and helpless women in their art. Is it an expression of identification with that state? Of mastery over a culture that places women in that state? Is the eroticization of female helplessness a victory over or a capitulation to a patriarchal culture? I think I know Kawasaki’s answer, but I’m not sure.

Kawasaki is certainly intent on contributing to the collapse of the boundaries between high and low art and culture, erasing those boundaries between fine art and mass media, and strives to create work that is accessible, affordable and asks questions. Her work has seemed to take a darker, more serious turn of late and I look forward to seeing where she takes it.

Audrey Kawasaki’s solo show, Kakurenbu, is currently on at Mondo Bizzarro Gallery, Rome, Italy. It runs September 4 – October 3, 2008.

[Please welcome our newest guest blogger, Irene Kaoru. Irene is a designer, photographer, model, artist, and sculptor. Irene’s blog can be found here, and prints of her work can be found here.]

18 Responses to “I Am Here In Stasis, Waiting for You: Audrey Kawasaki”

  1. diamondback Says:

    So weird; I found out about Kawasaki only last night. Glad to read a Coilhouse-generated interpretation of her work.

  2. el Says:

    I love her work.. but i hadn’t really thought about the subjects as being trapped before. it’s an interesting idea. i think a lot of the creepiness for me is associated with all of the direct eye contact. a kind of “i’m watching you watching me” thing..

  3. Nadya Says:

    I love the images you picked… so dreamy and disturbing in the most subtle way. Thank you for this post, Irene. I’ve long wanted to write something about Audrey Kawasaki here, but whenever I tried, nothing would come out except for “BabyArt! hurrr! yeah!” I do feel a lot of the same ambivalence that you do towards the images, but couldn’t quite put it into words the way you did. It’s interesting. If Audrey suddenly gave her answer, explained exactly why she depicts women the way she does… would it change the feelings you have as you look at at her work? Is that feeling of mystification a part of why these images work so well?

    Also… I love that there’s an Audrey Kawasaki action figure.

  4. IRENE KAORU » Blog Archive » Guest Bloggery: Coilhouse Says:

    […] of internet curiosities interpreted with inquisitiveness and intelligence. I am stoked to be there. My first post went up today, about the sexy work of Audrey Kawasaki. Filed under: art, internet Article tags: blogs, […]

  5. Tequila Says:

    Been a long time fan…mainly due to her exacting precision and high level of polish. The sexuality of the work is lost on me though, not that I can’t see it’s there mind you, I just don’t feel it. For me her work is ghost like…so while that haunting melancholy does hit hard I feel more like her subjects are drifting around me in this world not just theirs. Like little spirits ignored by adults by readily seen by the young or young at heart. I always walk away feeling like I should have asked something or said hello.

    Her LJ is pretty fantastic too…always updated and a good way to see what she’s working on and what’s coming up. Beyond the eye candy you get an interesting glimpse into the behind the scenes stuff often ignored.

    @Nadya….I’ve seen those action figures before…I still have an uncontrollable desire to make them fight one another like G.I. Joes…or at the very least go toe to toe with assorted Anime toys :P

  6. Zoetica Says:

    I especially love when Audrey includes hyper-detailed adornments in her pieces, admiring her patience and precision. The disquieting, provocative eye contact, mentioned above by El, and now something of a trademark of Audrey’s work, adds the dimension that keeps me hooked.

  7. [?] Says:

    i think what i love about audrey’s work is the sheer simplicity her girls hold, yet at the same time it’s full of intricate intimacy.

  8. Irene Kaoru Says:

    If Audrey suddenly gave her answer, explained exactly why she depicts women the way she does… would it change the feelings you have as you look at at her work?

    I don’t think it would matter much to me. I know my interpretation is only that. I enjoy the slight befuddlement I feel when viewing her work; I think it’s an effect of the extreme intimacy of it, and whatever the artists’ motives in creating that intimacy, it’s powerful and, to me, extremely sexual.

    @Tequila: In fact, the sexuality of her work smacks me so hard in the face that I’m bewildered you don’t look at it the same way! Isn’t art great? ;) I also peek at her LJ from time to time, she seems very nice and I hope she’ll have a show a little closer to me than Rome one of these days.

  9. David Forbes Says:

    I hadn’t ever seen Kawasaki’s work before, so this was a real treat. Thank you for the post.

    My take on it is different, Irene, and probably a little closer to Tequila’s. When I saw these, the first thing I thought was “fey” but in the literal sense as well. The pieces are otherworldly enough that they feel more alluring than arousing to me. With the drugged glaze to the beautiful eyes and the otherworldly surroundings, titles like “Taken” and “Possessed” seem to have the feel of young beauties snatched away from this world, transforming into something alien — and, like the changelings of old, never to return. The feel I get is similar to depictions of the Bacchae or the Sirens, not one of accessibility or weakness, but of ethereal power.

    You’re right, art is great.

  10. Jerem Morrow Says:

    LOVE hearing anyone go on and on about art, whether I agree or not! Reinterpretation is a lovely thing.

  11. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    The top image is so captivating. I looked through everything in her site after reading this article and I am passing the site to my sister. This girl is AMAZING. The way she interprets the female form is astonishing and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  12. blackdublinski Says:

    I’ve loved audrey kawasaki for a long time now, nice to see her in coilhouse. I’ve always wondered about the sexuality behind these paintings, they are almost always girls, and when she paints couples, there often seems to be a kind of sexual and sapphic quality to them, heaving breasts despite the youthful faces, lips parted in a longing way, fingers poised suggestively, the coy looks and smiles. I agree with what some others said, the lolita-like naivety can seem a little unnerving.

    but this doesn’t make me like her any less, I’ve got one of her prints and spend a lot of time just gazing at it…

  13. Irene Kaoru Says:

    @blackdublinski: I’m a total pervert so the unnerving slightly-not-ok-ness only adds to my enjoyment. I’m jealous you have one, they sell out so quickly–I’m determined though, I’ll get one eventually!

  14. niceandshiny Says:

    mmmm, I love her work. I see it every day, it’s my ipod cover sticker…
    Yuuuup, thats what arts for, decorating electronics

  15. Warren Ellis » @network 13sep08 Says:

    […] * Irene Kaoru’s guestblogging at Coilhouse. […]

  16. skwirl Says:

    I love her! First saw a bit on her in Vice magazine and have been into it ever since.

  17. Sam Ramirez Says:

    I just recently started loving this artist’s works. I saw them a few issues ago i Juxtapoz magazine and fell in love! Also, same as skwirl, then i saw her in Vice, but I just kinda skimmed through that one after I saw it in Juxtapoz.

  18. Celine Says:

    I’m kind of tired of her lesbian amputee paintings…there are a few that I really like and think are well done, but the fact that this is all audrey does dissappoints me. I like artists who can show growth, who have a dialogue with their work. Audrey has said all she can say with this subject, and now she’s just repeating herself endlessly. As an illustrator, the thought of doing the same thing forever sounds like a kind of hell to me.Is she doing these paintings because she truly wants to continue to explore this subject, or is it because her fans know what to expect now and she’s afraid of alienating them by doing something else?