Keiko Koshimitsu

At the core of my work lies the concept of the “restrained spirit.” I have always been acutely aware of the myriad forces that restrict, limit and proscribe human experience. Some of these forces are material and inevitable. Many others, however, are purely conceptual, even if they do not at first seem to be. The ideas of time and space, for instance, which seem at first so obvious and natural, on closer analysis reveal themselves to be the clear handiwork of humankind, contrived to limit and bound human experience. Equally contrived, of course, are the various governments, ideologies and religions that have performed a similarly restrictive function over the ages. Exploring these forces of restraint and addressing their often crushing, repressive affect on human beings is the goal that unites my entire body of work, from my earliest pieces in the late seventies up until the present day.

In the early phase of my career, from the late seventies until approximately 1985, I wrestled with painful emotions associated with the limits of time and space. The notion of the past, of irretrievable events and memories, seemed artificially limiting to me. Could past wrongs not be corrected? Could past dreams not be fulfilled? Perhaps dividing time and consigning events and feelings to an unreachable past is merely a human invention, designed to compartmentalize our feelings of regret and remorse. Likewise, the notion of space – of drawing definite bounds around one’s existence – may well be just human another effort to contain and seal off our feelings of anxiety, sadness and humiliation over being so small, so temporary and so powerless. These two axes of false restriction run though all of my early works, forming the grid on which I plot the attendant feelings of regret, sadness and humiliation.

From the mid-eighties until the early nineties I sought out less abstract agents of restriction.  Appalled by the various tyrannical governments and ideologies pinning down the human spirit across the globe, I addressed in my art what I considered to be new layers of restriction, new shackles fastened on top of the older ones. In addition to politics, I perceived these new restrictions also in technology and science, which increasingly outstripped the grasp of common people, causing fear and suspicion. Our fear of each other and what we create struck me in this period as yet another terrible agent of restraint.

Throughout the nineties my work continued to explore the theme of new restraints, of shackles on top of shackles. Over the course of the decade I focused more and more on emotional consequences of this intolerable situation, depicting feelings of despair, anger, and grief, albeit mixed with glimmers of hope for freedom and emancipation. Charged with these powerful emotions, in this period I outgrew the persona of a detached artist, observing the world from the sequestered studio. I became more interested in participation, activity and cooperation. 

The first decade of the new century has seen my interest in engagement grow and bear fruit. My work still contains the heated emotion of the earlier periods, the sense of frustration and urgency, but the perspective is slightly different. More than before, my work invites participation with the viewer, challenges him or her to respond, and therefore crosses over into the world of performance, even if it continues to be two dimensional and in traditional media, such as oil, acrylics, paper, photography, pencil, color pencil and ink. Fittingly, this period of greater participation and engagement in my art coincided with my taking on a leading role in the Japanese Artists’ Association of New York, in which capacity I arranged numerous group shows. My art in the foreseeable future will almost certainly follow this track of increased engagement and cooperation. The notion of the restrained spirit continues to infuse my mind and art, especially during these dark days of ever multiplying shackles, yet I find there is great solace in artistic performance and interaction.  


Title: Time and Space Series
Medium: Mixed Media on Wood
Size: 52" x 39"


Title: Cybernetics Series
Medium: Mixed Media on Wood
Size: 32" x 48"


Title: Modification Series
Medium: Mixed Media on Paper
Size: 13" x 5.4"


Title: Information Visualization Series - Family & Friends
Medium: Mixed Media on Wood
Size: 36" x 24"