ART GUARD: Who is Claudia Kogachi?

On the brink of a new world order, Claudia Kogachi has a stake in the narrative.

interview francis mcwhannell studio photography Annamarie Ott
source index issue nº01; buy it here now

Claudia Kogachi (born 1995, Awaji-shima, Japan) is based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand and represented by Sanderson Contemporary.

Her works are typically cartoon-like in style — all planes of vibrant colour and dynamic body angles. They often centre on family, exploring aspects of the artist’s life story and cultural background, as well as more widespread phenomena. Her early paintings show pairs of blue-skinned women engaged in competitive and physical activities. Sometimes the figures appear in domestic spaces. They play soccer in the laundry, table tennis over breakfast, and box in a living room reminiscent of that on The Simpsons.

The pieces are formally compelling, marked by an awkward but wholly legible perspective and an enthusiasm for pattern. They overflow with energy. The women are strong, athletic, yet pleasingly unidealised. Their bodies are lumpy, armpits and legs frequently left hairy. At least two narratives are in operation. On the surface, competitors face off in various contexts. Beneath it, Claudia and her mother quarrel. The works allude to a common experience: friction between child and parent.

In newer paintings, the artist addresses the personal more directly, reflecting on her Japanese-Hawaiian cultural heritage and including other family members. One piece shows her mother and obachan (grandmother) dressing her in her kimono. A relatively naturalistic work, currently on display at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, depicts her late jiichan (grandfather) asleep in front of the TV in an All Blacks top. Earlier in 2020, Claudia presented a series of rug-based works at play_station gallery in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.

These recreated clothes once worn by her jiichan, such as board shorts and a homemade ‘aloha shirt’ decorated with fans. Another rug, on show at Artspace Aotearoa in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, also centres on clothes. In it, a blue woman holds up a blouse next to a couch strewn with laundry. The blue is warmer than usual here, but the mood more sombre.

At first, I want to read the figure as Claudia’s mum, wearily folding washing. In fact, it is the artist herself, at work as a nanny. She now occupies the parental role. It’s a moving piece, and one that underscores her knack for blending the deeply specific and the oh-so familiar.

CLAUDIA KOGACHI FEATURES IN INDEX ISSUE Nº01
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