Junko Yamamoto

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Junko Yamamoto is a Tokyo-born, Seattle-based artist.

Yamamoto is a multidisciplinary artist with a primary focus on painting. She also explores such mediums as video installation, sculpture, printmaking, costume design, and photography.

Her work has previously been exhibited at numerous galleries around the world including: IMA Gallery Seattle; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House in Ohio; King County Art Gallery aka 4 Culture; Bel- levue Art Museum; SAM Gallery Seattle (displaying her works for over 10 years); Kirkland Arts Center; Poncho Foundation; Henry Art Gallery; Gas Gallery (Torino, Italy); Fresh Paint Art Gallery (Culver City, CA); Andrea Schwalts Gallery (San Francisco); Lotus Roots Gallery (Osaka, Japan); J Trip Gallery (Tokyo, Japan); Portland, Oregon and Boise, Idaho. Junko’s work was recently featured in Art in America Magazine and Studio Visit Magazine. Her works are included in the collections of Swedish Cancer Institute, Harborview Medical Center, Aspen Hotel Group and Mulvanny G2 Architecture.
She received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle in 1999.

Her current line of paintings is based on what she describes as “shunyata,” the Sanskrit word for “emptiness.” She enjoys playing around with the concept of what is empty and what is full. It carries over into the way she uses layers in her art. “For example, the first layer on the surface will usually be hidden deep below other features of the design,” she says.  “But I like to reveal hidden pockets of this layer that show up on the surface.” Shunyata has become the backbone of her portfolio work. While painting, Junko draws on her childhood memories, saying, “Growing up in Japan, I was surrounded by Japanese cartoons and pop culture. I recall wearing pretty, brightly colored kimonos as a little girl…that is very nostalgic for me, I connect with it and it inspires me.” This inspiration is very obvious in her work. Junko’s abstract art straddles Japanese pop culture while remaining distinctly separated from the crowd. Her shunyata series, which may become her life’s work, is a beautiful collection that revels in opulent decorative detail.



My recent work is part of ongoing series loosely organized through my meditations on the notion of shunyata, the Sanskrit word for “emptiness”. My pieces estrange the concept from its common Buddhist associations in order to explore the perpetually irreducible tensions between emptiness and fullness in terms of the forms and apparent borders of human consciousness.

We can only imagine the emptiness expressed by shunyata in relation to an attendant conception of fullness or wholeness – an elementary insight that serves as a starting point for me as I seek to puzzle through the boundaries of consciousness, knowledge, memory and our sense of delimited self – possession ( as against understanding of a universe or whole consciousness).

My process, which typically involves vacillating between painting layers of color and shape on canvas and using rollers to create the inherently imprecise and suggestive vertical lines which texture most of my works, is consonant for me with our constant “push an pull” of material and conceptual space and the nearly-indistinguishable layering of our conscious experience. Such layering is further suggested by the use of a range of pastels drawn from the patterns of clothing traditionally warm under more brightly colored kimonos – colors which were inscribed in my thinking from a young age.

The circular forms that (re)appear and disappear in all of the pieces signal for me both the thresholds of consciousness and interconnectedness my creations attempt to inhabit as well as my indebtedness to the forms of Japanese popular culture – particularly comic books – with which I grew up. The comic book trap of dialogue bubbles invoke our primary communicative gestures and the ways in which repertoires of pop cultural imagery help to shape and structure our most basic expressions of consciousness, even as we recognize in them am attempt to escape the “reality” of the rest of our conscious lives. The perpetual openness of these bubbles invites a kind of play, a precarious undecidability and possibility that marks all our ways of knowing and communicating.


Junko Yamamoto