The artwork of Japanese painter Yuko Miyama bursts with energy. Flowing hair, silken tassels, and radiant suns swirl together on her canvases, framing playful but demonic characters. Her work connects with a deep history of Asian culture, tugging at historic threads as everything changed along its journey throughout the region over centuries and millennia.
日本画家 Yuko Miyama 的作品充满活力，飘逸的头发、丝质流苏和旭日图案，衬托出一个个鬼灵精怪的形象。她的作品扎根于深厚的亚洲文化，并从数千年的历史演变中剥茧抽丝，形成自己现有的风格。
Miyama’s demons glance wildly about with buldging eyes, appearing in the form of red creatures and horned children that fly and tumble mischievously. Their unruly hair drifts across the canvases in wisps like the smoke that entangles them. Fire and rays of the sun ignite while flower pedals drift lovingly. Bright reds, greens, and yellows collide. Everything moves and vibrates. Her work primarily features oil paints, but they’re often mixed with watercolor, acrylic, or tempera on cotton cloth and wood panel.
Although Miyama is not religious, she does believe in god and the existence of some invisible, higher power. “I have a longing and desire for that special thing,” she says. Her paintings are an attempt to visualize that world beyond our sight, to connect with something primordial and subconscious. “It’s about the emotion, energy, and insanity inside the human soul. But also the power born from nature, the unknown, and providence. This is the stuff at the root of Asian faith and culture, the root of Japanese thought.”
As culture and religion disseminated from India to China and then to Japan, it changed and evolved, leaving a lasting influence on each region’s culture. Similar imagery, rituals, and ideas are now practiced across Asia in endless variations. Miyama hopes to reach something at the root that connects it all, something more primitive but also more universal. She’s equally inspired by Tibetan, Hindu, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. “I want to connect with what’s at the center of this all and create something new,” she says.
The demons and lions that Miyama paints are original creations, but they’re largely inspired by Asian religion and folklore. One recurring character is the Oni, a Japanese demon some suspect was introduced from China and who is often depicted via masks. The demon is generally considered evil and murderous but also capable of more a nuanced life. Another is a red version of the lion that appears in dances across Asia for Chinese New Year and other events, meant to spread good luck and fortune. “India introduced the lion to us, there are none in China or Japan. But its form was spread by human hands along the silk road, who used the beast creatively for different purposes. I draw the demon and the lion together as a symbol of strength and longing.”
作品里出现的鬼怪和狮子形象皆来自 Yuko 的原创设计，其大部分灵感来自亚洲地区宗教和民间传说。作品中一个频繁亮相的角色来自日本的妖怪“鬼”（Oni）。这种妖怪的造型最早由中国传到日本，后来当地制作了各种关于“鬼”的面具。“鬼”通常被认为是邪恶和凶残的化身，是一种非常凶猛、强悍的妖怪，其特征是披着锐利的利刃散开且长有尖角的高铜头，使人獠牙血盆大口，铃眼，皮肤常为红色或青色，上身裸露，下虎皮，身躯大壮，爪牙，以巨大围成一圈的狼牙棒为武器。另一个常见的角色是红狮子，在中国春节和其他节日活动里经常能看到它的身影，寓意传播好运和财富。“狮子来自印度，中国和日本并不产狮子。人们将狮子创作成各种形象，一路在丝绸之路上流传，用于各种不同的用途。而我将鬼怪和狮子并列，则是作为力量和渴望的象征。”
Miyama also depicts creatures in the likeness of dogs and deers, two animals considered as messengers of god in Japan. The sun appears regularly in her work as well, which has been used in many forms across Japanese history going back centuries. The rays of the sun have continually changed in her work; in her earlier paintings the rays have sharp, straight lines, but with successive paintings they increasingly swell and evolve, taking on more intricate shapes.
The bright colors and energetic style of Miyama’s paintings make all of this accessible and entertaining. She’s able to connect with, challenge, and reimagine ancient stories in a way that people from all walks of like can appreciate. It’s vague enough that viewers don’t need to agree with or understand any of it to enjoy it, but the foundations she touches on are also impossible not to notice. On a surface level it’s interesting, but the deeper one goes, the more they’re rewarded. There’s levels to it.