Meet Four Emerging Artists Whose Works are Available for Purchase in Artnet’s Buy Now: Summer Special

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For its latest show, Artnet’s Buy Now platform has partnered with art dealer William Leung to present 14 paintings by four emerging female artists. Yurie Hayashi, Michelle Nguyen, Minami Kobayashi, and Yumeno Goto each have a distinctive style, from dreamy trompe-l’oeil compositions to highly textured mixtures of sand and oil paint—but their shared identities as young, emerging Asian artists and their exploration of dark, existential themes traces a common thread. 

On the occasion of Buy Now: Summer Special, hosted in collaboration with Will NYC, we spoke to these four artists about their respective subject matter, inspiration, and artistic process. Read on, and don’t miss the opportunity to collect these works, available for purchase until August 10.

Yurie Hayashi

Yurie Hayashi, It’s in the Air (2022). Available for immediate purchase in Buy Now: Summer Special.

How has your move from Japan to the United States impacted your approach to art-making and the themes explored in your paintings?

My own personal journey informs both my thinking and creating through topics of diversity and inclusion. I am from a middle-class Japanese family that has been living in the same house since my great-great-grandfather’s time. Yet, when I am in America, I am seen as an immigrant, a minority, or a small Asian. Many comments about my race or cultural background have scarred the inside of me. I use these emotions to build my maquettes, which serve as emotional dumpsites.

What is the role of the human body in your works?

I believe in Shinto and practice Buddhism, and I believe that every creature on Earth has a soul. When the body dies, the soul can start a new life within a new body, which could be human, animal, or flora. This depends not on how one lived in their previous life, but how ‘peaceful’ they were during death. If one fails to let go of their loved ones, wealth, pets, ego, and regrets, they will not be a human in their next life.

I see the human body as a vessel; so human skin functions like a plastic bag and everything inside is similar to what is inside of a grocery bag, only organized differently by the structure of bones.

Which artist in the canon of art history has most influenced your own practice? Which of your contemporaries most inspire you?

I paint in what is often called a trompe-l’oeil style. Trompe-l’oeil is a French term which translates to “fool the eye.” I am interested in how the things we subjectively perceive from the world are shaped and filtered by our unique minds and bodies.

I absolutely adore Chiharu Shiota’s work. She explores human existence and fundamental human concerns such as life, death, and relationships through her large-scale “thread” installations, which include a variety of common objects and external memorabilia, and through her drawings, sculptures, photography, and videos. My work and hers differ visually, but both of our bodies of work have a certain darkness behind them. 

Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen, Cockfight I (2022). Available for immediate purchase in Buy Now: Summer Special.

Your work is rooted in the processing of grief, trauma, and ecological despair. How do you approach these themes in your imagery?

I have had debilitating anxiety since my early teen years. I think my obsession with death can be attributed to my propensity to worry and the passing of both my paternal grandparents within less than a year of one another. I don’t think anyone around me at the time was emotionally or linguistically equipped to talk to me about it. My family deemed the subject of mortality and death to be too morbid and taboo to be openly discussed. 

In order to feed my fascination on the topics and comprehend my own grief, I sought out an assortment of literature. Some pieces of writing that resonated with me in my teen years were Seamus Heaney’s Open Ground Poems (especially “Mid-Term Break” and “Blackberry-Picking”) and the short stories, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel and “People Like That Are the Only People Here” by Lorrie Moore. The vivid imagery and complex emotions imbued in these works still haunt me today, and my interpretation and understanding of them continues to change as I grow older and experience more of the world. 

That being said, books and podcasts are very important to my art practice—I think I get my best ideas from them. I find it liberating to create visual works that are initially inspired by non-visual mediums. 

What is the significance of food and livestock in your work?

Food has always been a very important aspect of how I connect with the people in my life. The differences in experiences, cultural values, and language served as a real source of conflict in my family unit. Although it was very hard for us to communicate how much we cared for one another, I knew I was loved because of how well I was fed. All of the food we consume has a history. Some of the most indelible dishes were the result of difficult times in which people had to make the most of what they had. In watching my grandmother and mother cook, I sensed the devotion and care they put into making our meals.

I also have food-related reasons for using wildlife and livestock imagery in my work. I’m really interested in the thin line that exists between creature and meat, and how our aversion to this process is partly due to the fear we have concerning our own morality. I have always felt an attachment to roosters in particular, stemming from their relation to my year of birth and the activities I learned my father partook in as a child. My interest was further piqued upon learning that the chicken was not originally domesticated for its meat or eggs, but for cockfighting. The birds were treated as sacred creatures throughout many early human societies, admired for their fighting prowess. My father dabbled in cockfighting as a young boy and recalls tenderly wrapping his bird in a blanket at night while it slept to help it conserve its energy. He loved the bird and was terribly saddened when it died in battle.

Minami Kobayashi

Minami Kobayashi, A Confession at the Hampstead Heath (2021). Available for immediate purchase in Buy Now: Summer Special.

What is the role of color in your work? How do you approach color selection?

My colors are the vehicle for my feelings. They reflect how intense my emotions are and describe my state. I paint about vulnerability and sorrows, and my bright color palette expresses a desire to embrace those things.

Your work is at once figurative and narrative. Where do your scenes come from? Do you work from reference images or memory, or solely imagination?

For the last five years, I have occasionally made paintings that reference historical paintings or TV shows that are connected to my practice in order to express my own interpretation, and through that, my own identity as a Japanese woman artist in her early 30s. However, for the most part, my works come from imagination and in-person experience. I occasionally look at photos I took before to remember what was there—for example, a type of vegetation, a quality of light, or a pose.

Which artist in the canon of art history has most influenced your own practice? Which of your contemporaries most inspire you?

Japanese prints from the early 18th century and the Nabi group from late 19th century in France have inspired me so much since I was young.

Yumeno Goto

Yumeno Goto, Release an arrow of light (2022). Available for immediate purchase in Buy Now: Summer Special.

What role does tactility play in your works? What do you use to achieve your textured compositions?

I use a textured mixture of sand and oil paint, making raised paintings that evoke rock faces. By using this technique, I can depict the ways in which paintings are able to protrude into the real world.

Which artist in the canon of art history has most influenced your own practice? Which of your contemporaries most inspire you?

I am inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and Gustave Moreau. Bosch’s rounded female figures and dark worldview influenced me, while Moreau’s work interests me for his references to mythology and use of color. A visit to Gustave Moreau’s studio museum in Paris inspired me to incorporate oil on wooden panels.

Additionally, Masato Kobayashi, whom I studied under, inspires me with the way he imagines the outside of a painting’s frame and the wild way he applies paint.

What images or objects do you look at while you work?

My studio is located in a lush forest. The green light and vegetation nourish my imagination, and the textures of my paintings are inspired by these natural surroundings.

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