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Treed Codependency

Kaito Itsuki

Installation View of ‘Treed Codependency’ at GalleryMEME

This young artist’s territory has been expanded. The cacophony of the icons of shame, fake, displeasure, and hybrid, mixed with enigmatic metaphors, has become more intense as well. But such is the appeal of her works. The artist refers to her solo exhibitions in New York, London, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Zurich, following her last exhibition at GalleryMEME in 2021, as a lifetime opportunity. She means this as a ‘female’ ‘Japanese’ artist ‘in her 30s’.

Treed Codependency(Belts and two embryos), Oil and charcoal on canvas, 91×72.7cm, 2023

Kaito Itsuki (皆藤 齋) does not bother intentionally excluding the elements of the unconscious as much as she neglects the social and cultural significance of the categories of her identity. The point at which the Chinese and European collectors find her works to be quintessentially Japanese and the response from her local audience that she is ‘un-Japanese’ are all interesting subjects for the artist. Her experiences in the art scene, in which the artists communicate with cultural diversity rather than language, should be a precious catalyst for the consistent pushing of the artistic boundaries for this young artist.

Treed Codependency(Birds in a mask), Oil and charcoal on canvas, 53×45.5cm, 2023

Her second exhibition in Korea, Treed Codependency, unravels a peculiar scenery that combines unfamiliar and defamiliarized objects and icons ranging from her famous faceless men, birds that share human bodies, numbers and icons, blades and bondage tools to excretion. ‘Codependency’ in the title refers to a term in psychology that denotes a relationship in which an absence of the ego caused by the imbalanced relationship leads to a dysfunctional dependency on one another. A psychological phenomenon that lays a foundation for relationships, such as ‘empathy’, not only serves the purpose of bridging the gap between the agent and the object but concurrently functions as a mechanism that suppresses the Ego.

Treed Codependency(Green pot), Oil and charcoal on canvas, 160x130cm, 2023

Locating within the works a context that the title implies is not an easy errand, for the images on the canvas may only appear as mere collisions or independent entities without meaning. The artist, however, inexorably weaves a fantastical world that is peculiar and, at times, disquieting, by collecting and dispersing figures, animals, and objects in a uniquely meaningful manner. In her narratives, humans take roots in the pot planted with birds (Green Pot), share their blood with birds (Feeding from Vein), or even let birds use parts of their bodies as nests (Feeding Birds). Birds, at this point, become either Other or Oneself. Such anthropomorphized birds will even face the moment where they must face the anguish of weighing pressure and conformity that follow relationships. The artist uses a fable-like form that skillfully mixes idiocy and morale to tell a narrative of the balance between the acceptance of Others and the domain of the Ego. Living with a bird, the artist tells us that her exploration of the self-expression of the Ego persists in a way where her close observation of the properties of the objects is projected onto herself.

Morphing Training(skin and one to ninety), Oil and charcoal on canvas,80x200cm, 2023

Human excretion, which is a continued legacy from the last exhibition, seems to have become a powerful symbol that reveals her artistic worldbuilding. The icon, transformed into adorable forms and cute colors, is a symbol of shame and the id. The artist brings the archetypal narratives of the myth to bring out the taboo of displeasure onto this world. Such is the case of the coconut-born goddess from the Indonesian myth who nurtures and cultivates magical food with her excretion. It is another goddess symbol following the Amazons from the Greek mythology that the artist previously described. If the Amazons dreamed of a utopia based on the exclusion of the agent of power that is men, the coconut-born goddess embraces the world and nurtures it with the circulatory vitality of mother nature. Through myths, an object of taboo transitions into a precious object. As such, the artist employs myths or archetypal narratives as a metaphorical prism to offer a mirage that moves beyond the totems and taboos so as to delve deeper into the psychology and behavior of humankind that are often perplexing and inexplicable. The illusions in the mirage emanate a powerful energy in which anxiety and vividness coexist in the sharp and conspicuous contrast of bold colors.

Tight Intelligence(Birds Love the Music), Oil on canvas, 27.5x22cm, 2023

The myth that this talented young artist offers the world is still unfamiliar, and, oftentimes, uncomfortable. Nonetheless, that which uncompromisingly leads us to a total immersion into her narrative is the valid, universal desire to be connected to other forms of existence and the desire for autonomy. Her suggestion, that to accept the often inexplicable gratuity and peculiarity of human behavior as is is the right way to look into the intricate interplay between the mind and the body and find a balance between them, is in such a line of logic.

Treed Codependency(Vortex in the head), Oil and charcoal on canvas,97x162cm, 2023

Much like the essence of myths where the odyssey to one’s true ego is prevalent, Kaito Itsuki, too, takes her journey through many trials and tribulations to an innermost territory where she can finally establish her own sense of identity and expand her Ego. It is axiomatic that Itsuki’s myths of paradox, where impurity trains purity, unfamiliarity becomes familiar, and imperfection evolves into mysticism, will take root and bloom infinitely in such a territory.

Kim Hyunjin, Curator, GalleryMEME

3, Insadong 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
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