Ikenaga Yasunari

Ikenaga Yasunari, portraits of women in soot ink, mineral pigments, Menso brush
Japanese artist Ikenaga Yasunari paints portraits of women in serene, often wistful poses, in which the patterns of their clothing and surrounding textiles as as important within the compositions as the stylized design work of Mucha or Klimt.

Though his approach is modern, Yasunari works in tools and techniques from the traditional Nihonga style, painting on linen cloth with a Menso brush, using mineral pigments and soot ink (comparable to Lamp Black in European artistic tradition).

The artist’s website is divided into brief series consisting of paintings of individual models, most of which can be read as portraits.

Yasunari’s delicate line, bold patterns and superb contrast of detail areas and “empty” shapes, make his compositions extraordinarily strong.

His color schemes are almost monochromatic, but with areas complementary colors, usually reds contrasted with greens. Unlike the most common uses of complementary pairs, however, Yasunari restrains the chroma of all of his colors, applying them in delicate balance with the other elements of his composition. The result is a subtle, but striking harmony.

9 Replies to “Ikenaga Yasunari”

  1. They are beautiful, particularly the subtleties of color and design…but almost more about the fashion than about the model. The clothing, rendered with such perfect attention to detail, draws the eye and only after does one look at the faces. This is particularly true of the one of the girl in the sweater–that sweater pattern is all you see unless you really force your eye to move around the page. There’s nothing wrong with this…unless his goal was to highlight the girl, not her clothing. But I suspect, as you point out, that his focus is similar to Klimt’s.

    1. You may be right about the importance of the clothing, though I don’t think fashion is as much a factor as the patterns as patterns. My impression is that the composition is the artist’s overriding concern, and that everything else is arranged for that end, including the position of the model. I certainly don’t think they are primarily portraits in the usual sense, although if you look at the series for each model, he has certainly captured a consistent likeness.

  2. I think one reason I am drawn to these is the reminder, in some ways, of Dagmar Frinta an illustrator I was very taken with years ago. Hard to find much of her online but she use a simple handling of face and focused on shape and pattern.

  3. Does no one else see these that these young girls are sad or resigned after an act or that they’re waiting in trepidation?
    Very few of them look serene. A few look a bit alluring.
    The execution is lovely illustration, but the illustrations are all very much the same; the girls even share the same clothes and bed linens.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. While I can’t speak for other viewers, it’s interesting that you and I, at least, are interpreting the model’s expressions somewhat differently. It may be that the artist has deliberately tried to keep the expressions enigmatic enough to allow for that. I agree that the compositions and compositional elements are all quite similar, though I don’t find that unusual among artists who focus on a series with a common theme.

  4. I got here from Zhao Guojing and Wang Meifang’s Gongbi Paintings. I find their paintings to share some similarity to the treatment of the lines and ink colours. I like these type of paintings very much as it is so different to the western method of paint treatments (Oil or watercolour). There is a certain stillness found in Gongbi movement, but the Japanese method has a strong sense of pattern details, all shapes are treated with equal respect. The Chinese method has a sense of “Yun” and colours are “let go” by the painter to create something called “Yi”, which is the chinese word that describes the moment when the ink dissolve into the water on paper, which is said to create an sense of “Yi” , kind of like mood and atmosphere. They are very different but all shares some similarities. If you like Yasunari’s work, you will find Zhao and Wang’s paintings to be delightful too.

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