Seeking the self // Lia Kimura

The works of Japan-born Polish painter and fashion designer Lia Kimura are intense and emotive, experimental while drawing upon classical techniques. They are connected with a search for identity, contrasting feelings of anguish with a dreamlike hope that transcends trauma and alienation. Somewhere being abstraction and figuration, her series of oil portraits in which sole figures are depicted against a dark background particularly encapsulate this sense of inner turmoil and a gasping self-awareness. Corporeal elements are softly lit and detailed, but facial features are consistently blurred until non-existent. These are figures lost in the ether, at once freed from the boundaries of identity that are often a point of contention in modern society, and longing to find a sense of self.

Having had works already displayed at several exhibitions and auctions in Poland, Kimura was recently chosen as one of 50 young international artists to be represented at the Fresh Legs Berlin 2019 art exhibition. We met the artist at the exhibition opening at Galleri Heike Arndt DK in Berlin Friedrichshain earlier this month to find out more about her works and inspiration.

The Way

Hi Lia. Can you first tell us a little about your background. Where are you from, and when did you move to Warsaw?

I moved to Warsaw when I was seven years old. It was a time of constant observations of everyday reality as well as human behaviour. My family comes from Japan, from a small city named Shingu. I have always felt “different”; living in Japan I was considered to be European, and later after moving to Poland as a person with Asian roots. I was a child a bit different than my peers, which makes it easy to imagine that my school history has been marked by otherness.

When did you start painting, and how did you turn your passion into your career?

My professional career started a few years ago, but I always had an artistic background. My father, for example, was a big fan of classical music and in my childhood, I heard Chopin, Mozart, and Beethoven all the time. It is very important for me to be acquainted with the newest art and what happens around me. That is why I decided to mix my very personal art with fashion. The painting process consumed me so much that when I started, I would create works all night long – then I realised that it is a great job for me. I can express myself in the first place as well as deal with negative feelings. That’s how it began, I first created for myself and did not show anyone.


You also work as a fashion designer. How is your work method similar or different when approaching these projects?

I usually mix them. Canvas and other fabrics are not the main clues for my projects. I do not focus on everyday matters, it gives me artistic freedom. My clothes are some kind of wearable art.

Identity forms a key theme throughout your works. Why is this of particular interest to you?

I am a huge researcher of humanism. The most inspiring knowledge is psychology. I cannot imagine my paintings without knowledge in this field. I am a sensitive individualist whose art exposes human fears or dark thoughts. It would be almost impossible to create such images without a psychologist’s knowledge protection. I would say, I am showing a face of intimate feelings or emotions and this is my particular interest.

Souls are what could break

You often feature depictions of the human body in your works, but the faces are notably blurred out or incomplete – why is this?

Faceless figures are in general not only people straight from the imagination. I feel a strong connection with them and it is quite hard to be a commercial artist at the same time. I would say, I am partly selling deep psychological thoughts. It is quite interesting that people want to show them in private places. It is probably because of the times we live in now, lonely people whose identities fight with Internet-selves.


Where do you go to get inspired?

My strong inspiration is my studio generally. But I would say I could not create without libraries, as well as without nature and long walks.

Your Instagram tagline reads “Feeling homesick for non-existent places” – can you explain what that means to you?

Every evening I read fairy tales for children because I think adults should also read them to learn children’s imagination, empathy, and perception of the world. It is a poetic preview, an invitation to my reality. I cannot find a place, I often feel unreal, as if I did not fit into this world. That’s why it seems to me that where I am now it is not yet a direct place. On the other hand, I have no idea which place is “for me” and whether it exists at all and whether it will ever feel good somewhere, like at home.

Lost Emotion

See more of Lia’s works here and on Instagram.

Fresh Legs Berlin 2019 runs until 31 August at the Galleri Heike Arndt DK and Inselgalerie, Berlin. Find out more here.