E’wao Kagoshima was born in 1945 in Niigata, Japan and moved to New York City in 1976, where they still live. They received their M.F.A. from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts. They have had solo exhibitions at the Nagai Gallery, Tokyo; Gabrielle Bryers Gallery, New York; The New Museum, New York; Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York; Algus Greenspon, New York; Greenspon, New York and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich.
The bestiary E’wao Kagoshima has been breeding for more than five decades now has the particularity to resist classification. Not only are the figures they depict difficult to identify, but the variety of styles and techniques they have been using makes it hard to believe they are, indeed, from the same hand. The selection of four works that have been made for Baltic Triennial 13 is, for that matter, very telling. No two creatures of Kagoshima share the same features. Going deeper into the work it is possible, however, to discern not only similarities but affinities.
There is, first and foremost, a particular use of pigment, which is not only justified by an appetence for dimmed bright colours, but also by a textured way of drawing. If you dare get closer to Kagoshima’s drawings, you will probably get a sense of the importance of the grain within the seemingly smooth paintings and drawings. It is not about portraying something that is out to preserve Kagoshima’s bestiary, but rather turning the surface of the canvas or sheet of paper into its own cosmos from which other kinds of species can erupt. Thus the grain and textures assume a major role in that they reveal where these very species come from – the encounter between Kagoshima’s hand and imagination with the surface.
It then becomes interesting to focus on the colourless works, the ones made out of ink lines and graphite shadows. These works make apparent the notion of origin Kagoshima is so interested in, questioning whether the figures they are fixing on paper are undergoing a disappearing process or are instead emerging. It would be easy to see spectral figures in them, but can a ghost exist if it hasn’t even been born? To doubt their nature is the very reason for their existence – they are here to recall the importance of the chimera as a product of our imagination, which manifest a tendency to create more than what we can know.
That very idea of limitation seems, then, crucial in apprehending Kagoshima’s practice. Limits to our imagination, to the artist’s, limits between the surface and the colour, the support and the lines. One last observation to be made is the fact that Kagoshima’s creatures are never alone. In fact they break the boundaries of their own flesh to merge with one another – yet again another story about limits. In X-4 (1978), you will notice one large penis and its accompanying heavy testicles but two pair of eyes, and even two smiles. Similarly, Libidoll n°1 (1985) is not alone although it is more difficult to tell if it features two Siamese sisters who have decided to put an end to their conjoined relationship or one single being performing, happily, harakiri. One thing is certain: Kagoshima’s beasts are never sad to be in between. Their smiles let us know that their uncomfortable positions are all the more pleasurable.