Ryoko Kaneta, a leading figure of Japan’s up-and-coming generation of artists, recently made her U.S. solo debut with a show at Corey Helford Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The Tokyo-based artist paints according to ancient Japanese philosophies and uses the female figure to personify elements of nature. These include the phenomenon of weather and dramatic seasonal transformation, both depicted dreamily in her landscapes.
Kaneta has visited many of the sceneries in her works, which have held particular resonance for the artist. They have encouraged her ambition to express a place’s history and stories accurately. This way of working is akin to the attitudes of the Rinpa and Kanō Schools, approaching painting through scenes of nature portrayed and celebrated in ancient Japanese literature. Kaneta corresponded with Girls That Create via email.
Artist Ryoko Kaneta
As a young girl, did you see yourself becoming a visual artist? Were you always pulled towards painting, or is it something you found later in life?
Kaneta: I’ve loved painting since I was a child, but I didn’t think to wanted to be an artist until I started studying at an art university.
Was there a specific artwork, book or movie that you remember making an impact during your younger years?
Kaneta: Hokusai and Hiroshige heavily influence my work. Also, in Western art, Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel influenced me greatly.
Was there someone in your childhood who encouraged your art?
Kaneta: My high school art teacher.
What was the first piece of artwork you sold?
Kaneta: There are two works, 「小舟(boat)」 and 「小さな世界のお話(the little story)」. The theme is slightly different from where artwork is now, but both are early works that became the current style.
Tell me about your first U.S. solo debut. What do you hope visitors will take away from viewing your work?
Kaneta: I am thrilled that people of different backgrounds and culture are viewing my work. I want visitors to experience Japanese nature and culture.
What are three things you’ve learned over the past several years that you wish you could go back in time to tell yourself when you were starting out as a visual artist?
- Spend more time improving your skills
- Explore deeply
- Study English
Can you share some thoughts about the connection between the female figure and nature? Why do both show up prominently in your work?
Kaneta: In ancient Japan, it is thought that all natural objects and phenomena have a soul, and I thought that the culture could be surfaced even with modern character expressions. Also, when I view nature, I feel a feminine kindness.
Is there a physical place in Japan that holds a special place in your heart?
Kaneta: Aomori (in the Tōhoku region of Japan). There is no special relationship between the land and me, but I visited it 10 years ago and it is very memorable. I felt feel very close to nature, especially the mountains.
Are there particular colors you feel drawn to and that show up consistently in your work?
What advice do you have for girls who dream of pursuing the visual arts as a career?
Kaneta: You are unique and you always have some sort of expression that only you can do. Please do your best and do not give up drawing.
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by Chummy Press
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