Shinpei Kusanagi was born in Tokyo in 1973, where he continues to live and work.Read More
Kusanagi is a painter whose works comprise of mainly paintings in acrylic and coloured pencil on canvas, although he also produces drawings on paper and various media on wooden panels. His paintings are masterfully controlled, a single brush stroke able to imply anything from a cloud, to a building, telephone line or a tree so that the viewer has the freedom to interpret it as they will. He takes his inspiration from nature, particularly plants and surrounding landscapes, mixing their forms and shapes into something new. Unclear lines and shapes recall our memories. Some of his works will take you on a stroll through the backstreets of Japan in a fusion of urban landscape and nature. Kusanagi’s paintings unfold in a dreamlike sequence of suburbia.
Kusanagi majored in English Studies at Reitaku University in Chiba (Japan), graduating in 1997 and has also studied visual design at Kuwasawa Design School. However, his career started as a successful illustrator, providing images for several book covers and magazines. He has also taken part in various artist residency programs, including in Austria and Switzerland in 2005 and 2007 respectively. It was during his time in Austria that Kusanagi’s paintings took on a different feel, becoming increasingly abstract with the use of light colours to invoke flashes of light, making his works more dynamic than before. From 2007 to 2012 Kusanagi created works on a monthly basis to illustrate a novel called Mizu no Katachi (The shape of water) by Teru Miyamoto which was serialised in a magazine. These paintings were based solely on the landscapes and plants of the Kiyosumishirakawa area of Tokyo. These paintings were then published in Kusanagi’s first book named Kiyosumi Kaiwai (Kiyosumi and its Environs), by Kyuryudo in 2013.
Not limited to brushes, Kusanagi has also produced works utilising stained untreated cotton and hemp. This method provides the fading, unclear colours to his works which generate the ephemeral, dream-like quality within his paintings. The light strokes are fleeting, filled with nostalgia and wistful memories. He works with tight control over his paintings, paying as much attention to what is not painted as to what is. Kusanagi’s works are at once static and dynamic, causing the viewer to feel as if they have seen that scenery before, yet the memory is too vague to fully recall. Therein lies the magic of Kusanagi’s paintings.
In 2002 Kusanagi was a finalist in the Phillip Morris Art Award The First Move (Tokyo, Japan), and in the same year, he won The Choice - Grand Prix of the year award. He took part in the VOCA 2011 exhibition at Ueno Royal Museum (Tokyo, Japan) and also had a solo exhibition project N at #45 at the Opera City Art Gallery (Tokyo, 2011). His work can be found in the UBS Art Collection (London, UK) and KKR Japan (Tokyo).
Text by Rosemary Pennells.