Rugged Heart
  Claudia Kogachi

In the artist’s latest exhibition, Rugged Heart, large pictorial rugs depict the domestic, personal anxieties, and kinship stemming from an uncertain year passed. 

Apr 16 2021
Words and photographs by Binh Minh Ha

Alone in her home, the blue-skinned elderly figure rolls musubi (Spam sushi), barbecues galbi (Korean short ribs), and cleans out the freezer. The series, Obaachan during the lockdown, Wahiawā, Hawai’i, reflects on the artist’s longing for her obaachan (grandmother) who remains after her jiichan’s (grandfather) recent passing. Often referring back to photographs taken during her last visit to their home in Wahiawā, Oahu, Kogachi recalls the quiet companionship and ease at which families show care through everyday activities. The elevated viewpoint intimately draws out the artist’s attentiveness towards her small and frail obaachan. The making process was riddled with whether or not she would get to see her grandmother again during these uncertain times.

In her practice, Kogachi has never quite gotten used to oils, opting instead to source house paints from the beloved Bunnings Warehouse. The big, rudimentary strokes of quick-drying acrylics allow her to render personal moments with a childlike objectivity. The iconic flatness now characterises the playful and naive nature of her work. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Kogachi began to experiment with rug making using tufting guns. This proved to be fruitful, as the transition from paint to textiles further enriched her making process. Tufting favoured a more tactile exchange between the subject and the artist. In one series, her late jiichan’s personal items, one being a pair of board shorts, are meticulously woven into rugs. The process helped Kogachi to reconnect with him in some way.

Working in a new medium was exciting but not without its challenges. The setup is similar to painting: stretching the canvas, drawing the outlines, and then filling in the colours — but the making is physical and arduous. Tufting guns are heavy things to carry up and down the ladder at length. Teaching yourself to move with the machine is unintuitive, unlike painting where you are in full control of the brush. Fabricating the massive 2.5 x 7m frames was also a process of trial and error. Jordi, Kogachi’s partner, was enlisted to construct the frames by hand.

All The Careers I’ve Ever Considered Doing In Order To Finance My Art Career registers a tension between Kogachi’s commitment to her art practice and the difficulty in sustaining it. Kogachi herself is the subject in these pieces. She folds laundry at her nannying job, trims hedges as a landscaper, and works as a sparky. With the world on the brink of a new order, Nanny, Landscaper, and Sparky maintain a hopeful tone while addressing the concern of not knowing what the future holds. For now, Kogachi doesn’t need to grapple with the choice of doing what’s right. It might just be nice to take a break and read more.

[Rugged Heart exhibiting now at Visions Gallery Tāmaki Makaurau until 24 Apr]

Claudia Kogachi (born 1995, Awaji-Shima, Japan) is an artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2018 from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. In 2019, Kogachi received the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking award for her painting Mom Wait Up (2019). Her most recent exhibitions include: Everyone Has A Horse Phase (2020), Sanderson Contemporary; Uncle Gagi (2020), play_station space; All The Careers I’ve Ever Considered Doing In Order To Finance My Art Career, New Artists Show 2020, Artspace Aotearoa; and Obaachan during the lockdown, Wahiawā, Hawai’i (2020), Te Tuhi.
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