Yuna Ogino

Through COVID cocoon, acclaimed Japanese artist Ogino brings a new perspective to NYC

“My painting is so to say an accumulation of questions about different elements, forming many layers.” – Yuna Ogino

Artist Yuna Ogino is one of the most acclaimed artists of the new generation of Japanese artists. By developing a distinctively striking style, her works have been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Yuna Ogino (born 1982, Tokyo, Japan) lives and works in Tokyo. Besides traditional medium, the multi-talented artist has also expanded her boundaries beyond painting by expressing artistic value into textiles, books, and performances. Yuna’s innovative style has been awarded and praised in public collections and spaces. With inspirations from ikebana flower arrangements and Japanese gardens, she weaves lights and colors onto the blank canvas, bringing to life her thoughts and memories. If you have followed her work, you know her painting technique is full of joyful color and intriguing lines that represent both the strength and vulnerability of plants and insects. She turns metaphorical representation to maternal richness with a refined design that continues a gorgeous tradition of Japanese decorative society. 

Installation view of Yuna Ogina’s “RELATE” . Courtesey of Mizuma & Kips.

But the COVID-19 imprisoning experience was turning Ogino to a new dimension and forcing her to see human struggle in the whole. The outbreak forced her stay at home life to become a central focus, with little emotional connection to allow her to see humanity and suffering without gender, age, and race. This newfound understanding of we (the whole world) are all suffering under the pandemic changed her palette and inspired her to produce figurative oil paintings in a 7-foot-high canvas. They are debuted at Mizuma & Kips Gallery (324 Grand Street, New York, NY, November 10th – December 7th, 2021).

Yuna Ogino.

Ogino’s solo exhibition titled “RELATE” features many of her new figurative pieces. There are two major 7’ vertical in sized canvases (both with multiple figures) twisted with merge layers of bodies, hands, legs, forms, and colors. In technique perspective, I see her perfection in figure drawing, with confidence in every proportion and lines. In color wise, she boldly plays multiple layers of expressive colors with abstractly motioned different shapes in the canvases, but never does she lose “unity’ in the presentation. The visual intensity in these layers bring the viewer into a “meta” universe, without any appearance of face or hidden sexuality. Subtle hints of figure movement in fragility suggest the universal struggling of the human race’s recent encountering. It is a truly brilliant motion film full of both emotion and composition, yet still in 2D form.

Installation view of Yuna Ogina’s “RELATE” . Courtesey of Mizuma & Kips.

When I asked Yuna if Francis Bacon’s artwork of twisted figures had influenced her new creation she kindly declined, instead saying for her a most admired painter is Jenny Saville, a British born female artist who is famous in depicting large-scale nude women. (In 2018, Saville’s Propped (1992) sold at Sotheby’s in London for £9.5 million, becoming the most expensive work by a living female artist sold at auction.) Obviously, I can see Saville is her role model. I invited Yuna to tour Sotheby’s in NY for the coming contemporary auction week. I see her one day presenting for sales at the same auction house.

Installation view of Yuna Ogina’s “RELATE” . Courtesey of Mizuma & Kips.

In the exhibition I also see many of her 3’ x 3’ new square paintings which Ogino produced in the last 18 months. They are in a subdued monotone grayish color placed next to one of her joyful fuchsia color paintings which was made before pandemic. They are side by side with a similar style of flower arrangement. However, in the new collections one will find the flowers have lost the refined details and vibrant colors. The new canvases are more toward an abstract style and the flowers are transcended to simple petals in loose brush strokes. The insects, such as the colorful butterflies in previous paintings, now become animal paws and antlers. In the same theme, the previous beautiful layers now have been transferred to a layer of metaphor – some questions of survival. Here her painting is no longer heavily pursuing beauty or technique; I see a new window to the soul has been opened, releasing compassion, humanity, and sincerity. I see a young artist from her inner struggle to become a powerful storyteller. From her cocoon comes a newborn international master.