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Fuyuko Matsui on Her Work and the Supernatural

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Japanese artist and pop icon Fuyuko Matsui explores the haunted, interconnected realms of traditional and modern aesthetics. As one of the few women to have attained top training and mastery of traditional Japanese painting (nihonga) techniques in Japan, Matsui also cites centuries-old artistic influences, such as the iconoclastic eighteenth-century painter Soga Shohhaku and the fifteenth-century painter Soga Jasoku. Having grown up in a house that has been in her family for fourteen generations, Matsui produces work that is steeped in tradition; at the same time, she breathes new life into unsettling images filled with grotesque figures of ghosts, entrails, and rotting corpses. “I don’t like sweet, cute art,” she says. “If we think in centuries, in the Kamakura period, for example, it was scarier, more ghostly. I want to return to that taste in my art.” In doing so, Matsui conjures the universally feared specters of the inner self, the unknown, and the inexpressible shadows that roam between the personal and collective past. View her work in Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past at the Asian Art Museum from May 18–September 2, 2012.