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Asuka Anastacia Ogawa: Making Waves in New York City

Asuka Anastacia Ogawa: Making Waves in New York City

Meet Asuka Anastacia Ogawa, the 31-year-old painter at the forefront of a new naive movement, leaving an impression that is in high demand by New York’s buyers.


Just four years after graduating from Central Saint Martins in London, the Japanese-Brazilian Painter has sold out shows in New York and London. With her large, bold paintings of androgynous figures and surreal narratives, Asuka Ogawa is quickly emerging as one of the most sought after female painters. Asuka’s most recent solo-exhibition, titled “Feijão” (or “black beans” in Portuguese), at the Half Gallery in New York City was an overwhelming success. Future buyers will have to move quickly, as all of the nine paintings on display were sold within a week of their debut. High profile figures, including artists Rashid Johnson, Mark Grotjahn, and Henry Taylor were all able to acquire one of Asuka’s arresting paintings. 

Asuka Anastacia Ogawa, Açúcar, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 30 × 24 inches (76.20 × 60.96 cm). Photo courtesy of Deli Gallery.

Asuka’s paintings are leading traction for a new-wave of Naïve art or “pseudo-naive,” a movement often understood and imitated for its direct simplicity and frankness. The movement started with early modernist artists. They wanted to disassociate themselves from what they saw as the lack of humanity in the “sophistication” of art, that was perpetuated by the traditional system. As a result, naive works saw large, emotional and vivid paintings  based purely on emotion rather than conventional form.

Asuka Anastacia Ogawa, Feijão (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist and Half Gallery.

Asuka has acknowledged that there is a child-like evocation of ancient folklore within her paintings. Tales and myths previously handed down to her by the generations of women in her family are key inspirations for her work. However, from the perspective of an outside viewer, the paintings seem  to suggest more that we are within the midst of a world of which we have no knowledge, than the beginning of a tale. Like the wide-eyed children in the images, the viewer is trying to decipher the remnants of a tale that is within the paint. Like a child pondering through an old photo album, there is a curiosity to interpret who the familiar figures are. 

Confident in the universality of childhood tales, Asuka has told her viewers that she welcomes interpretations of her paintings. As a result, collectors and audiences have noted in the works both grief and innocence, family and romantic exchanges, and even more political connotations, such as gender and blackness. It is a credit to Asuka’s images and naive art as a whole, that such a wide range of responses are drawn.

Asuka Anastacia Ogawa, Juicing (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist and Half Gallery.

This openness for interpretation is what Asuka refers to as naïveté (also the title of a past series of works). Naïveté, a phrase coined by the movement, is, for Asuka, the ultimate way to approach her work. To some critics and artists, the lack of relationship between the art and its context can be seen as uninformed. Asuka challenges this by playing with the childlike excitement of “not-knowing.” To define, or to judge, would be antithetical to her paintings.

This is reflective of Asuka’s method of painting, which she calls “chimerical.” Her inspiration is a product of an unrestrained imagination: by not judging or reflecting on what springs to mind, nor predicting where it will go, her works adopt an experiential immediacy. Her work is rarely inspired by current trends, nor does it observe societal conversations. It is instead inspired by the images and spaces that are irrespective of prevalence or popularity.

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While Asuka does not currently have a solo show, future buyers can look to the horizon for many more. Half Gallery owner, Bill Powers, will include one of her works at a group show at the Almine Reach in Paris, for the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain on the 17-20 October 2019.


Featured Image: Asuka Anastacia Ogawa, Amarelo, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 40 × 30 inches (101.60 × 76.20 cm). Photo courtesy of Art Viewer.

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