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Egami Etsu


March 11 – April 30, 2021

Artist & Curator Talk: Owen Duffy in Conversation with Egami Etsu

Chambers Fine Art is pleased to be participating in the 2021 edition of Asia Week New York. The gallery is excited to present Facebook, a solo exhibition by Egami Etsu. This will be the artist’s first exhibition in the United States. Born in Japan in 1994, Egami spent many of her childhood years in the United States and Europe and has noted that even when she was in high school she was fascinated by Japanese masters of Western style painting (Yoga) such as Ryusei Kishida who looked to Europe for inspiration in contrast to the inward-looking Nihonga artists. In 2012 she moved to Beijing and studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2016. The following year she moved to Germany where she studied media art at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. She subsequently returned to CAFA, receiving her M.F.A. in 2019. 

Egami’s experience during her period of study in Beijing and Karlsruhe was highly diverse in character, ranging from the empathetic painterly Realism of Liu Xiaodong to the theoretical approach favored in Karlsruhe where one project in which she participated involved spending time in the art therapy department of a terminal care center of a local hospital. Also required during her peripatetic childhood and adolescence was a familiarity with several languages, notably Japanese, Chinese, English, and German. Not surprisingly communication and lack of communication has become one of her primary concerns, evident in her graduatrion work, Mis-hearing Game, that was acquired by the CAFA Museum. Painting portraits of multiple sitters, some well-known, Egami has noted that she was “trying to approach the essence of communication by the “sound” that I hear, and the “face”of the person that I see.” Elsewhere she has spoken of “going back and forth between acoustic waves and optical waves.”

Egami has already exhibited widely in Europe and Asia, using video and installation to explore the relationship between her own distinctive vision and the location where the exhibition is taking place. An example is Dialogue beyond 400 Years – Etsu Egami at the Chiba Art Center, Japan. For her first exhibition in New York, however, she has returned to painting and has selected a theme that is of universal significance, the human face. How to approach this subject that has been one of the most consistent themes in the history of art since ancient times? Referring to her portraits while working on Mishearing Game, she noted that “It is not the purpose of drawing a portrait but the act itself becomes the material.” 

This is an even more accurate depiction of the portraits in Facebook than it was of the numerous panels comprising Mis-hearing Game. Each painting consists of a limited number of lushly painted horizontal, vertical and curved strokes from which human features emerge. Although they appear to represent individuals, any resemblance is accidental. In the age of Facebook with all its inherent problems, Egami’s Facebook is a subtle commentary both on the art of painting and broader issues of communication and interpretation. In a statement abiout this group of recent works, she has said:

     “The human face is not static, it has emotional and spiritual connotations, it is constantly changing, it is the living evidence of energy and informnation going in and out. In a person’s life, the image of the face can be described as “Yi Chi Go I Chi E,” (a Buddhist expression), fleeting, never normal. I like cherry blossoms that bloom for only a short time. I cherish faces that pass by. Although there are many misunderstandings and dislocations, it is an opportunity and a beginning to understand life and exchange information. ……We can use a variety of techniques to describe the face, trying to find the truth. But all our efforts are made in dislocation. My portraits are just a moment’s feeling and vague memory, which may be far away from the object described. They are more like cherry blossoms, falling in the spring breeze, silent but fragrant. Each of my portraits may be a misunderstanding. Faces are impermanent. The human face is an endless book, it is eternal, it is the whole of human identity and life.”

Egami Etsu was shortlisted as one of Forbes 30 UNDER 30 in 2020, and has exhibited in museums across Asia, including including Entrance gallery Vol.1 EGAMI Etsu, Chiba City Museum of Art, Chiba (2020); VOCA2020 – New Painting, Ueno-Royal Museum, Tokyo (2020); CAF AWARD 2020, Contemporary Art Fondation, Tokyo (2020); UNSCHEDULED, Taikwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2020); The 2nd Beijing International Media Art Biennale “Post Life”, CAFAM, Beijing (2018); Grounding, UCCA, Beijing (2017);  Negotiating Space – Third CAFAM Biennale, CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, China (2016); and Neither Here nor There, Yuan Art Museum, Beijing, China (2016). Egami Etsu currently lives and works between Beijing and Japan.