In pastel hues, innocent looking girls engage in a series of transgressive, often morbid acts. In some, they burn, suffocate, and stab their stuffed animals. In others, they experiment with sexual or violent acts on each other, often both at the same time. This is the acrylic world of Kana Miyamoto, a Japanese painter testing boundaries and shedding inhibitions.
Miyamoto’s pieces revolve explicitly around young girls, usually dressed in cute outfits that drift into the realm of naughty. “I’ve liked drawing girls since I was in elementary school,” she says. “I admired cute and fashionable girls, and that’s how I started drawing them.” As she grew older, she continued developing her skills while honing her artistic vision. The characters have become simple vehicles of expression, devoid of guilt or agency.
Originally, her work was an exploration of youth and the savagery of kids. “I was strongly attracted to the reckless cruelty of children and how they’re never blamed, no matter how crazy things get,” Miyamoto says. But eventually, it became a study of cruelty in general. “Humans are so ambivalent towards one another and inconsistent with their values.”
Miyamoto’s work is a pressure valve of sorts. “I think I am releasing myself by drawing pictures of these free girls,” she says. “I’m a very emotional person.” The sexual themes and violence depicted in her work is a comment on the way an inhibited atmosphere tends to create its own backlash. “Sex becomes a punching bag in a repressed society.”
The sapphic nature of her work fits neatly into a long tradition of erotic art in Japan that goes as far back as ancient shunga art and continuing through the hentai of contemporary manga. But Miyamoto says it’s not directly influenced by either; her art is about her personal feelings and experiences, and, much of her work is based on childhood memories. In one case, she cites the sexual bullying of a classmate as something that stuck with her for years.
“I was very embarrassed to publish the sexual works at first,” she says, “but now I don’t care much. If people don’t like it, that’s fine. As long as they feel something.”