Self Portrait as Suki
1275 x 1250 mm
acrylic on plywood, rimu frame
Signed and dated verso
Courtesy of the artist and Visions,
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Estimate: NZD 4,500 — 5,500
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There is nothing more seductive than romanticising about who you could be, within the confines of who you are.
Claudia Kogachi's contribution to When The Dust Settles references this idea by living vicariously through the image of Devon Aoki, an actress who rose to cult figure status in her role as Suki in the 2003 film 2 Fast 2 Furious. Aoki is lauded as “one of the most recognizable alternative faces of the 90s” and has become an icon for many young femmes to fashion themselves on, and to assert themselves, be literally or figuratively, in the naughty by nature scene of drifting (a type of motorsport).
Under the restrictions of lockdown that have plagued the impossibility of cruising around and being flirty and bossy in your whip (slang for car), Kogachi opens up this space of dreaming, grasping for a sense of freedom and pleasure that is eagerly en route.
Artist Biography & History
with Artspace Aotearoa:
New Artists Show 2020 (group), 8 August — 17 October 2020
Claudia Kogachi was born in Awaji-shima, Japan, in 1995. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. In 2019, she won the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Award. Recent exhibitions include: Hot Girls with IBS, 2021, Hot Lunch, Ōtautahi Christchurch There’s No I In Team, 2021, The Dowse, Te Awakairangi Lower Hutt; New Artists Show 2020, Artspace Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; Obaachan during the lockdown, Wahiawā, Hawaiʻi, Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; Uncle Gagi, play_station, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington; and Everyone Has a Horse Phase, Sanderson Contemporary, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland (all 2020).
Mitsubitchme by Divyaa Kumar, 2021
Joyful, pleasurable and generous. With dynamic bodies and brightly coloured cartoonish figures, juicy and rich with complex ideas, Claudia Kogachi’s skillfully rendered works present thoughtful considerations onto the surfaces of her works. Be it painted canvas, board or tufted rug, Kogachi works towards a sense of self knowing, and has fun doing it.
Often centred on family, Kogachi’s early work explored aspects of her personal life, dynamically illustrating her experiences of conflict and connection. The paintings that formed her graduate exhibition at Elam School for Fine Arts depicted pairs of blue-skinned women engaged in athletic competition and forms of domestic combat. These tableaus address the interpersonal dynamic between her and her mother via living room tae kwon do and football in the laundry. More recently, Kogachi turned her practice towards interpreting her whakapapa and whanau in Hawai’i, the soft domesticity of an afternoon nap, the icons and symbology of the Japanese diaspora, as well as her relationship with wider society, and the place she, as an artist, holds within it.
In 2020, Kogachi exhibited a series of machine-tufted rugs with Artspace Aotearoa as part of the New Artist Show. Developed with the support of the curatorial team, the series All The Careers I’ve Considered Doing In Order To Finance My Art Career, pictures a series of lumpen blue figures performing odd-jobs and sporadic labours as well as more financially stable forms of employment many artists consider, and take on, to finance their artistic practices. Here, we see Kogachi negotiating the values of specific labours as well as the material investigations and limitations of rug making, a skill picked up over the first Covid induced Level 4 lock-down.
In these rugs, and with her subsequent reunion with the paintbrush, Kogachi demonstrates the value of storytelling as a vehicle for conceptual investigation. Her persistent and continuous development of autobiographical content provides us with evolving access points into creating a sympathetic connection with the artist, and from there the story she is telling. These stories can be as emotionally fraught as inter-familial relationships(1), or as playful as comradery between friends with shared illnesses.(2)
Kogachi’s occupation with autobiography extends to Self Portrait as Suki, the work she has contributed to When The Dust Settles. In the early 2000s, the period in which she grew up, media content was not particularly diverse or inclusive, so one had to find or insert themselves into whatever representations were available. The character of Devon Akoi’s ‘Suki’ from 2 Fast 2 Furious, is one of our generation’s earliest pop culture feminine icons. Tapping into the significance of such figures in our collective memory, Kogachi uses this character as a vehicle for creating representations of the self in popular media.
As Hannah Ardent puts it, “the presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and ourselves”(3). When we see images of ourselves in popular culture, we are justified and reassured of the validity of our own realities and how we see the world. Kogachi’s casual self-insertion into mass media imagery that is otherwise depleted of representations she relates to, reinterprets existing stories into ones that are a more accurate reflection of a subjective lived experience.
Self Portrait as Suki is formally compelling, marked by an awkward but wholly legible perspective and bursting enthusiasm. It overflows with a burgeoning energy. She displays a strong, athletic, yet pleasingly unidealised self, tattoos peeking out of the curve of biceps, exposed belly creased. Like the best of her works, Self Portrait as Suki is lively, relevant and relatable, underscoring Kogachi’s brilliant knack for blending the deeply specific with the endearingly familiar.
(1) Obaachan during the lockdown, Wahiawā, Hawaiʻi, 2020, Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
(2) Hot Girls with IBS, 2021, Hot Lunch, Otepoti Christchurch
(3) “The Human Condition: Second Edition” Hannah Ardent, 2013, p.50, University of Chicago Press