I want a process in my work which harmonizes the disorder of nature, our nature—the way music can embrace the impulses that both fuel and disrupt our lives. To make a whole from these parts: that is what I am after. It is in this way that my painting, though outwardly abstract, reflects my inner reality.
– Hisako Kobayashi
Hisako Kobayashi grew up in Tokyo before moving to New York City in 1981 to earn a Master of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute. The mother of two grown children, she lives with her husband in an artist’s loft in downtown Manhattan.
Her abstract paintings balance and juxtapose the influences of an artist who still feels a strong affinity for her native Japan, but who also received rigorous training in the US, and who has lived in this country for most of her adult life.
Over the last thirty years, her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. Donald Kuspit, the well-known art critic, has written of her work: “Kobayashi’s paintings exemplify the romantic idea that ‘it is by feeling alone that art is to be understood,’ as Baudelaire has written. Her work is also grounded in the idea that painting should model itself on music, the purest of all the arts. Kobayashi’s music is subtle and complex. The abstract language of color and gesture seem indistinguishable, giving the paintings an uncanny presence. The colors insinuate themselves into each other even as they retain their separateness. Her work speaks to Kandinsky’s concern for an art of feeling that causes the soul to ‘vibrate.’”
Kobayashi’s viewers experience a sense of concealed energies, hinted at but never directly spoken of. The paintings operate as fields of thought, diffused across broad swathes of intensely hued backgrounds. This is art that speaks to us of more than art.
– Jonathan Goodman, Art Critic
Some theorists think that abstraction has become empty formalism, at best a clever manipulation of clichéd forms, at worst mechanically redundant, and as such decadent. So why continue to make abstract paintings, as Hisako Kobayashi does? What makes hers distinctive, authentic? Kobayashi’s abstraction is a creative rather than destructive abstraction, a healthy rather than pathological abstraction, a restorative rather than subversive abstraction.
There are no images or objects in Kobayashi’s paintings, they are all vibrant surface, a resonant end in itself, a creative flux, a Heracleitean stream indicative of the changeableness and unpredictability of existence. Sometimes dark with strands of passionate color, sometimes flooded with light, they seem alive with unfathomable feeling.
Kobayashi’s vitalizing light—the innate radiance of her oceanic cosmos—saves abstraction from the nightmarish violence implicit in the fatalistic nihilism with which abstraction began, but doesn’t have to end, as Kobayashi’s enlightening abstractions, inviting empathic immersion in the cosmos, make clear.
– Donald Kuspit, Art Critic