Japan-born and Los Angeles based, painter Chie Yoshii creates a surreal universe that carries immense emotional potential. Using a contrasting mix of techniques and styles, she’s focused on exploring timeless psychological themes and their relationship to mythical archetypes. While Yoshii’s realistic style evokes traditional Flemish paintings, the complexity of her themes and use of subtle symbolism brings a distinctively contemporary quality to her works. 

Fusing different cultures and historical periods together in an effortless manner, Yoshii constructs powerful visual narratives which delight the imagination. These enigmatic compositions embody contradicting elements such as novelty and nostalgia, innocence and sensuality and strength and fragility, mirroring the complexity of our psyche. Beautiful and surreal, her female figures captivate the audience with their enigmatic but powerful presence. Although she employs elements drawn from a pool of mythical archetypes residing in our collective unconsciousness, the meaning of these works is ultimately left for the audience to decipher. 

Her latest exhibition, Dreams, is currently on view at Los Angeles contemporary art gallery, Corey Helford Gallery. PRØHBTD chatted with the Yoshii to find out more about Dreams and her art practice. 

What is this new body of your work about?

In dreams, we leave the intellect behind and see archaic images that emerge from the depth of the mind. In Jungian psychology, it is said that they are derived from archetypes in collective unconscious, the universal and innate part of our psyche. I tried to capture these archaic, yet contemporary themes that resonate with us beyond time and place. Just like gem stones, they beautifully embody human nature that has been crystallized throughout history.

Your visual language combines traditional painting techniques with surrealistic imagery in an effortless manner. How would you best describe your style?

Among existing categories, I sympathize the most with aestheticism and symbolism. I try to capture an eternal moment of beauty that tells psychological truth. They are surreal but psychologically realistic. The traditional painting techniques are used to create a strong presence of human nature personified. 

The female form is a recurring subject in your work. How does it relate to the themes you explore?

My paintings are about human psychology. I am a female, so it is more natural for me to express it in a female form.

The mythological plays a big role in your imagery also. Which tales inspire you the most?

Different mythologies appeal to me at different times depending on what is on my mind at that moment. Often, I don’t know the reason why I am attracted to a certain mythology when I work on a painting. The image comes to my mind first as a psychological reaction, and the understanding comes much later, sometimes after finishing a painting.

What drew you to explore Jungian theory of collective unconscious and how has it influenced your practice?

I was always interested in mythology, but I did not know why. Then I got to know Jung’s theory of collective unconscious through writings of Joseph Campbell, a mythologist. I felt Jung’s theory explained why I was interested in mythology and archaic images. By knowing why I am interested in what I’m interested in, I could free myself from doubts and paint more confidently.

How would you describe the relationship between reality and fantasy in your paintings?

My paintings are not about reality, but about the fantasies aroused by its effects. They are viscerally conceived and often more tangible than reality.

Your paintings seem to represent and encourage imagination at the same time. To what extent is the symbolism in your work universal and to what extent is it open to interpretation?

When I paint, I follow image associations more than logic to express archetypes in a more pure and open form. Archetypes are psychological and behavioral tendencies. I hope visualized tendencies in my paintings create something individual and personal in the viewer’s mind, so that it will be truer and closer to the viewer.

Who were your influences and whose work do you appreciate the most today?

I was influenced by many but especially by Gustave Moreau for his colors and themes, and by Caravaggio for his characters’ strong presence.

Dreams will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles until November 24, 2018.

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