Drawing inspiration from Japanese nature paintings of the Edo period (c.1600–1868), Wiley parallels traditional techniques and materials in nine monumental paintings. Exposed linen highlights the depicted natural scenes while also preserving the delicate balance of the untouched picture space.
Referencing famed Edo-period artists such as Kitagawa Utamaro, Kiyohara Yukinobu, and Utagawa Kunisada, the works emphasize the use of negative space in compositions that significantly advance Wiley’s distinct visual lexicon. In the absence of something besides a single subject, the functional emptiness highlights the oneness of nature and the expansive scale of the natural world. The impact of these ideas echoes throughout. The focal point of each painting is the story itself, one that extends beyond a path that blends into the horizon, and the understanding of the narrative as a whole. Similarly, Itō Jakuchū’s renowned Images of the Colorful Realm of Living Beings (c. 1757-1766), from which this exhibition takes its title, embodies how nature scenery is depicted and symbolized in Japanese art.
“So much of my work is about appearance and showing up and being visible, and this dance between exploring the vastness of space within the minimality of this technique I find to be an interesting juxtaposition.”
– Kehinde Wiley