By CLARE GEMIMA November 7, 2023
Stepping into the Nippon Gallery in New York City, I was eager to witness the mesmerizing fusion of dance and painting by Saori Kanda. Having previously captivated audiences in Japan, Kanda's unique blend of performance art had promised to be an unforgettable experience. The exhibition was thoughtfully curated by Kyoko Sato, known for her commitment to showcasing the forefront of Japanese art in the heart of the world's art capital.
Kanda's performance was a breathtaking display of artistry, a seamless blend of dance, song, and erratic painting. Immediately, her presence exuded a sense of overwhelming power and appeal to beauty. With her bare hands and kimono covered in paint, she embarked on a journey of creation that felt akin to a sacred, culturally specific ritual. The canvas before her was an empty space waiting to be transformed, filled, and brought to life in the most majestic of painterly, and physically demanding techniques.
Drawing inspiration from the action paintings pioneered by Jackson Pollock, as well as her own captivation by the beauty and movement of Japan’s Shrine Maiden’s or “Miko”, Kanda had spent two decades refining her unique expression, which seamlessly combined sacred prayer, dance, and drawing. As she danced and sang to contemporary music she had remixed herself, her movements translated into vibrant strokes of color applied like a brush to the canvas. It was as though her very existence was laid bare on the canvas before our eyes, as she lost complete, rhythmic control. The performance was not merely an artistic display of an all encompassing performance artist, but also a deeply personal and introspective journey. Kanda had faced the challenges of the Covid Pandemic, emerging with a profound perspective on self-love. She shared her belief that self-love is the wellspring of love within, and only by letting love overflow from within can we truly love others. Her powerful message can now resonate with her more global audience, and emphasizes society’s interconnectedness of self-love and world peace.
Sato, an advocate for using art to make people happier and make the world a better place, found synergy with Kanda's aspirations for global betterment. New York, a melting pot of cultures, the headquarters of the United Nations, and a champion of human rights, served as a poignant platform to resonate with the call for world peace. Kanda's philosophy revolves around the recognition and harmonization of the poles of femininity (or receptivity), and masculinity (or action), within every human being. According to her, these aspects embody the sacredness, the source, and the origin of creativity, and thus life. Femininity symbolizes an openness to the senses, innocence, sacred eroticism, and becoming a Goddess. Masculinity, on the other hand, represented the power of action, embodiment, and the nobility of courage and self determination. She believes that by harmonizing these two poles within oneself, we could live life completely authentically.
Witnessing Kanda's live performance in New York City was an opportunity to experience the convergence of power, beauty, and a profound multidisciplinary artistic practice. It was more than an art exhibition; it was an immersive experience that transcended boundaries and spoke to the core of human existence. Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, raised in Dubai, and based in Tokyo, Kanda used a variety of artistic mediums to express her way of life. Her work as a "dancing painter" engages all five senses, in which she has graced notable locations around the world. Her performances are a testament to her unique artistry, and the universal language of creativity. Curator Kyoko Sato's dedication to showcasing Japanese art and commitment to making the world a better place culminated in this expansive project. In her role as editor-in-chief of Japan Contemporaries, she continues to promote the appreciation of art and culture on an international scale.
Saori Kanda's sensorially explosive performance piece was a reminder of the true power of self-love, and the potential for art to bridge cultural divides in their joint mission towards reaching world peace. The Nippon Gallery provided the perfect backdrop for this immersive experience, where power, beauty, and a profound message came together to touch the hearts of audience members right here in New York City. WM
Clare Gemima contributes art criticism to The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary HUM, and other international art journals with a particular focus on immigrant painters and sculptors who have moved their practice to New York. She is currently a visual artist mentee in the New York Foundation of Art’s 2023 Immigrant mentorship program.view all articles from this author