Selected Works

Kaoruko was born in Nagoya, Japan. She She is now living and working in New York City.

A former teen pop star with a burgeoning artistic career, KAORUKO explores the complex identity of Japanese women, caught, as she sees it, between tradition and modernity. She combines references to pop culture and ukiyo-e (traditional Japanese woodblock prints) in her large-scale paintings, in which she depicts languid, lingerie-clad young women in intimate domestic spaces, against silkscreened backgrounds of traditional kimono patterns. The women in KAORUKO’s “Aromako” series (2011), for example, are shown calmly smelling various parts of each other’s bodies, while staring straight out of the canvas, meeting our gaze straight on.

As KAORUKO explains: “I tried to use this type of confrontational imagery to express my thoughts on Japanese culture in its relation to the role that women play, both socially and politically, in [the] present day in contrast to our history.”

KAORUKO’s highly codified motifs sourced from traditional woodblock prints and textiles are juxtaposed with figures defiant against the contemporary Japanese construct of kawaii,which values the feminine in terms of ‘cuteness’and ‘adorability.’ In herAroma series,the women depicted engage in everyday activities that produce bodily odors,the very reality of which is not acknowledged by the idealized fantasy of kawaii.

While the women depicted in her paintings are frequently in various stages of undress,KAORUKO insists that this is not an eroticized state,rather it is an intimate,private view into the lives of women and their relationships with one another.In combining traditional Japanese motifs with elements of contemporary culture,KAORUKO’s imagery is imbued with a fresh take on feminism that underscores the complexity of the modern Japanese woman.