From the 14th of May to the 5th of June 2011 – Aki Gallery
Ai Yamaguchi is a young Japanese artist whose work creates a fictitious world based on the lives of female courtesans working in brothels during Japan’s Edo period (1600-1868 AD). Yamaguchi has created nine imaginary characters – girls aged between nine and ten sold into prostitution by their impoverished parents. She depicts them while off duty, capturing their expressions of worry, sadness and confusion.
Stylistically, Yamaguchi’s work is inspired by the Ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) woodblock prints of the Edo period – which often glamorised the working lives of prostitutes – but is also influenced by contemporary Japanese Anime illustration.
Yamaguchi initially studied textile design and worked for legendary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami before setting up on her own. She is best known for the Shu by Ai series of packaging designs she completed for cosmetics company Shu Uemura.
The way she introduces us to her works can be quite different or various, some of the works have a realistic world (such as the series of “Toge-no-Seikatsu,” or a series called Touge no Chaya -The Brothel of the Mountain Pass – on which she draws the real lives of the girls as prostitutes), while the others have Yamaguchi’s imaginary world (such as a series of “Kinu-Ginu,” on which you can imagine that the girls are reflected into the patterns on kimono), and a series of “Kami-sama,” on which the girls are posing similar to the likes of the Buddha sitting in his trademarks position). These pluralistic kinds of worlds are clearly drawn definitely as a parallel world or a mixed view, inspiring us into the various expansions each work has.