Yasue Kobe, also known as “Yaya,” is a contemporary artist, social entrepreneur, networker, and digital marketer originally from Tokyo. She earned her degree from New York University and has gained recognition for her innovative and thought-provoking works. In 2004, she launched the “Cat’s Talk” project, a multimedia series that culminated in an exhibition sponsored by the Spanish government in Santander in 2007.
One of her most notable collaborations is with JAXA, The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, resulting in the mixed media expression of her ongoing love of colour in her series “The Planets.” Yasue Kobe has continued to develop her interpretive style using bold colours to explore and emphasize the features of various landscapes.
Through extensive research, careful planning, and precise execution, Yasue Kobe creates a limited number of beautiful canvases cherished by collectors. Her works are a testament to her talent and creativity, making her an important figure in the contemporary art scene.
My origins in digital art
I am one of the pioneers of digital art in Japan.
Digital art grew rapidly in both Europe and the United States in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but in Japan was only recognized as a genre in the late 2000s.
I worked from scanned images of my original canvases to produce multimedia renderings using bold colours set against simple black brush strokes
Representative work: “Cat’s Talk”
Collaboration and broad engagement
I strongly believe that art is there to be shared and that collaboration both enhances its appeal and facilitates engagement with a broader public who might not always have access. I have worked with several influential partners in Japan, including Jaxa (Japanese National Aerospace Exploration Agency), the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) and the Mitsubishi Estate, also making my work accessible through public exposure in schools, universities, banks, offices and public spaces.
Representative work: “Planets”
Omnipresent cats, opening doors for me?
Cats have always been a part of my work
I grew up with two chocolate point Siamese cats: sisters Leo and Elza.
Smart, active, elegant, and very playful; they quickly learned to open all the doors in our apartment, including sliding doors, cabinets, and even windows.
These two beloved friends taught me a lot about life during my formative years.
Leo had a short temper. When moving back from Hiroshima to Tokyo, she broke the door of her carry case and escaped in the Shinkansen.
Sometimes doors are barriers to progress?
Elza was patient, but she was cunning.
Sometimes doos will open if we wait?
Representative work: “Cat’s Talk Original”
The importance of colour
I have always been particularly sensitive to colour.
I have vivid memories of the first time I saw the Miyajima shrine near Hiroshima, where I lived as a child for 4 years. Staring at the large floating gateway sandwiched between the deep blue sea and cold clear sky I was moved by the vivid beauty of vermilion.
As an 11-year-old I painted a vermillion ”Spinning wheel” (1977) in recognition of its importance to our lives.
The colour vermilion is a driving force in my work, a prayer, healing, and hope.
Most of my works start with a thin layer of vermillion; I then work with cerulean or cobalt blue, vivid cadmium colours, particularly yellow, and then black – all to support my use of vermilion. These are my primary colours, where each story begins.
In the middle of the story, many variations appear deeper derivations of blue and red, purple, orange, yellow and white…..
But in most of my works, I finally return to red.
Representative work: “Corsica from afar”
East meets West
My work is increasingly a fusion.
Since ancient times, Japanese painting has focused on lines and space, expressing the flow of time, as opposed to the traditional Western perspectives of breadth and depth.
In this sense, my work is a fusion of East and West, using lines and space yet also respecting western perspectives, including the golden ratio of the ancient Greeks.
The constant changes of nature in the four seasons of Japan strongly influenced the senses, emotions and ideas in Japanese art. This was reflected in the vividness of traditional Japanese painting.
Japanese ink painting, which uses ink shading, flourished with Zen Buddhism from the 13th to 15th centuries.
Japanese artists have always had a keen sense of lines and have always valued the “space” between lines in traditional Japanese art.
For me, a line is not just a tool to create space, to divide a canvas with a stroke of the brush, but also an act of closure to define a boundary for space.
Representative work: “Sakura by moonlight“
My style: “Ma” and time
I use classical western tools and oils to create works that capture space and time with a Japanese sensibility.
In many of my works, I use the lines to create “ma” and dots to capture “time”.
Traditional Japanese artists have an acute sense of “ma” as something that relates to all aspects of life. It has been described as a pause in time, an interval, or an emptiness in space. “Ma” is the fundamental necessity in space and time that life needs to grow.
If our space is restricted, or we have no time, we cannot grow.
“Ma” is the space and time to step back, think and see things from a new perspective.
Not only does this lead to growth and progress as an individual, but it also reminds us that our actions play a role in shaping the world we share.
A form of Pointillism
The use of dots to create a sense of time is, in itself, a time-consuming process!
Initially, I use large brushes, progressively reducing their size as I layer dots on dots:
light dots on dark colours, dark dots on light colours. Sometimes I use a new colour to create an element of surprise. However, it has to be the right sequence to create a harmonious result. I connect the dots, like weaving lace, thereby creating the flow of time and leading the viewer’s gaze to every inch of the work.
Creating a canvas, and communicating a story using lines, space and dots together with the use of vibrant colours is my way of inviting the viewer into my painting and making them feel welcome.
My hope is that they enjoy the experience and don’t want to leave!!
Representative work: “Heading South”
Reflecting the challenging issues of today
My agenda today.
As an artist committed to bringing perspectives to a broader public, and a concerned
global citizen, I cannot ignore the many urgent challenges facing our world today.
I have had the enormous privilege over the last few years of travelling to many different parts of the world and appreciating the majesty and vibrancy of our planet.
Yet, as we all know, so many of our most treasured and idyllic regions are today threatened by our collective human behaviour: retreating glaciers in Alaska, wildfires in beautiful Napa Valley, death of coral reefs, drought in Africa.
Representative work: “Alaska series”
I fundamentally believe art has a role in preserving our planet
I sometimes depict myths and legends in relation to the sun, the moon and the sea.
Myths from all around the world have a lot in common, they transcend our differences in language, culture, and time, but they are all connected in our subconsciousness.
I often use novel compositions and vivid colours, but I don’t think the strength of my artwork lies in the choice of tones, the composition, or the way it is painted. I believe that the strength of the work lies in the strength of the artist’s heart that resides within the picture.
Representative work: “Lunacy?”
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