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Japanese Artist Miwa Komatsu Explores Harmony Through Depicting Mythical Creatures in her Art

Japanese Artist Miwa Komatsu Explores Harmony Through Depicting Mythical Creatures in her Art

  1. Japanese artist Miwa Komatsu finds inspiration in nature and childhood memories.
  3. She creates vibrant artworks depicting mythical creatures, exploring harmony and spirituality.
  5. Her art is celebrated worldwide and contributes to disaster relief efforts.

iwa Komatsu, a talented Japanese artist, has had a profound connection with nature since her early years. In a recent interview with Artsy, she shared, "I naturally felt the energy and spirits lurking in nature with the innocence of childhood. The pure influences nature taught me are breathed into most of my works."

Komatsu is renowned for her artworks, including paintings, prints, and sculptures, that vividly portray mythical creatures like the komainu, a protective lion-dog. Her fascination with these beings can be traced back to her childhood memories in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, where she spent her time playing in the wilds of the mountains and riverbanks near her home.

She reminisced, “As the sun began to set and it became time to go home, I would feel a childlike fear of the approaching night. At such times, a mountain dog would guide me home. Through these experiences, I began to understand the nature of divine creatures like mountain dogs and komainu, which led me to depict them in my art today.” One of her signature paintings, featuring a komainu, is currently showcased in an Artsy Impact Auction in collaboration with the artist and Whitestone Gallery, with proceeds benefiting natural disaster relief efforts.

Miwa Komatsu - Pure Energy Felt in the Forest, 2023 - Artsy Impact Auctions
Miwa Komatsu - Pure Energy Felt in the Forest, 2023 - Artsy Impact Auctions

Komatsu’s artistic practice is deeply rooted in Japan’s natural and spiritual culture while contemplating themes of life, death, and what she calls “The Great Harmonization.” She explains this as “a philosophy that harmonizes everything in this ‘Great Acceleration’ era where the impact on the global environment is rapidly increasing.” The resulting artworks, characterized by dynamic and vibrant lines, have established Komatsu as a leading Japanese painter of her generation.

Represented by Whitestone Gallery, she has held four solo exhibitions since 2018 and her works have found homes in prestigious collections worldwide, including the British Museum, the World Trade Center, the Nagano Prefectural Art Museum, the Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Izumo Grand Shrine in Japan. Her art consistently performs well in auctions, with her most recent sale in July for the 2019 painting “Inheritance and Evolution” achieving HK$1.2 million (US$153,996) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, surpassing its mid-estimate by 86%.

While Komatsu is primarily recognized for her paintings today, her initial interest was in etching. Her journey into painting began at the age of 27 after meeting New York gallerists who were intrigued by her unique works. She found a way to transfer her expressive linework onto canvas, viewing her lines not just as strokes forming a larger image but as vehicles for deeper spiritual expression. She describes the process as a form of meditation, allowing for a balanced brushwork achieved through a semi-unconscious state.

Courtesy of the artist and Whitestone Gallery
Courtesy of the artist and Whitestone Gallery

In her latest work, “Pure Energy Felt in the Forest” (2023), currently available on Artsy, Komatsu continues her exploration of harmonization through a vibrant depiction of a komainu with a unicorn atop its head.

“The komainu watches over and protects your soul,” Komatsu explains. “It ensures no evil is attached to your soul and, if there is, has the power to remove it… Through the komainu, I hope individuals reflect on their souls and understand what their souls truly desire.”

She also conveys the symbolism of the unicorn, representing purity. “When people stand in front of the painting, I hope they recognize even a glimmer of the pure light within their souls. This unicorn-toting divine beast is there to love them, guide them away from impurity, and lead them toward the sacred.”

Miwa Komatsu, installation view of Pure Energy Felt in the Forest, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Whitestone Gallery.
Miwa Komatsu, installation view of Pure Energy Felt in the Forest, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Whitestone Gallery.

Komatsu’s artwork offers a dazzling fusion of energetic yet harmonious strokes, providing insight into her unique spiritual perspective. Regardless of where her art is displayed—be it galleries, institutions, sacred spaces, or secular places—her intention remains unwavering. She believes, “I believe that every piece of my art chooses its own place to be… Once created, an artwork meets various people, sometimes changing its place and growing.” She emphasizes the role of the audience in the artwork’s growth, acknowledging their significant contribution.

With “Pure Energy Felt in the Forest,” whose proceeds will benefit the Hope Bridge Disaster Relief Association, a South Korean relief organization assisting with wildfires and flood damage, Komatsu contemplates the role of art and the artist in times of disaster.

“I believe that humans need clothing, food, shelter, and medicine to live,” she elaborates. “While medicine cures diseases, I believe art is the medicine that heals the soul and heart. I hold my brush with the hope that through art, many souls will find peace, healing, and growth. I also feel a strong responsibility and role to continue creating until my last breath.” Like the mountain dogs that protected her spiritually during her childhood in the Nagano mountains, she hopes her art conveys a sense of protection to others as well.