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Rokkaku Ayako: An Artist with the World at Her Fingertips
“Colours in My Hand” Exhibition at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam

A rising star of the Japanese art world, Rokkaku Ayako creates a vivid world of color and vitality by painting directly with her fingers without any preliminary sketches or guidelines. Her beguiling works have captured the hearts of people of all ages and backgrounds around the world.

Ten years ago in Tokyo parks a young Japanese woman started to apply acrylic paints directly onto cardboard with her hands, without using a brush.

Today that woman, Rokkaku Ayako, is 29 years old.

She first came to widespread attention when she submitted her work to the Geisai contemporary art festival organized by Murakami Takashi—an event that has recently become something of a rite of passage for young Japanese artists. In the years since then, she has risen to international prominence and held solo exhibitions of her work in France, Italy, and Denmark.

This summer her biggest solo exhibition to date, “Colours in My Hand,” was held at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Over the two months of the exhibition, Rokkaku’s art and energetic live painting performances charmed large numbers of visitors.

Detailed overview of the exhibition (link) →
360°panorama of Rokkaku Ayako’s “Colours in My Hand” exhibition at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam.

Art with an International Appeal

“I always loved doodling as a kid,” Rokkaku says, “but I didn’t start to draw seriously until I was 20 or so. I was looking for a way to express myself, I guess, and kind of stumbled upon it one day. I was wondering what I was going to do with my life, and when I started painting everything clicked.”

Rokkaku says she can’t even remember today what the subject of that first painting was. “I just remember this squishy, squelchy mess of paint all over my hands.” Rokkaku says the figures of grownups and children so typical of her work began to emerge spontaneously when she started painting directly onto cardboard with her fingers. How did she come up with her unique method of painting?

“I don’t feel I’m really painting unless my hands are in direct contact with the paint. It’s more fun that way—using your hands, painting with your whole body. And the finished paintings are more powerful too. When I started out, I used cardboard because it was convenient. I could get hold of it anywhere, and it was light and easy to prop up against things. But after a while, I realized that actually it’s the perfect medium for my kind of painting. I love everything about it—the warm feel, the rough cross-section you get when you tear it, the way the paint sticks to the surface. That’s why I’m still using cardboard today.”

Rokkaku Ayako is a spontaneous artist who likes to create in the moment. The results are impressive. There is a wonderful sense of approachability about her paintings on cardboard that gives her work an almost universal appeal, speaking powerfully even to people who would never normally think of visiting an art gallery. People seem to enjoy holding her paintings in their hands and examining them up close.

Rokkaku says people who have bought examples of her work to hang in their homes tell her that touching the paintings seems to bring them energy and strength. Her pictures are attracting growing numbers of admirers from diverse backgrounds—young and old, men and women—all over the world.

“When I’m painting, I try to get in touch with the way I felt as a child—to get back to my starting point, if you like. Everyone goes through a stage of being totally into drawing and painting when they are small. Children can get completely absorbed in their pictures. I think maybe my pictures help to remind people of how they felt back then.”

  • [2011.10.03]
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