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Ulala Imai

Ulala Imai, a third-generation artist in her family, is known for her paintings in which everyday objects are transformed into enigmatic scenes charged with a sense of intimacy. Her use of popular culture iconography, which she depicts across a variety of genres such as—still life, portraiture, landscape, historic and narrative painting—distinguishes her unique body of work. In search of the motifs, Imai turns to her everyday life, which allows “the motifs themselves to be understood as an autobiography.” Always having worked from home, and in close proximity to her father, husband and children, her domestic milieu serves as the primary source of inspiration. Still-life abounds with a focus on day-to-day objects in a household: the melting butter on a piece of toast in the kitchen; fruits and flowers picked from the garden; stuffed toys and figurines left behind by her children. For Imai, these objects found in the everyday are akin to proxies or avatars that become visual manifestations of human emotions and complexities through which she communicates with the world.

Ulala Imai (b. 1982, Kanagawa, Japan) lives and works in Kanagawa, Japan. She studied at the Faculty of Art and Design at Tama Art University and graduated from the Doctoral Program in 2009. Recent exhibitions include Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO, USA (2023); Pond Society, Shanghai, China (2023); Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Korea (2023); Parco Museum, Tokyo (2021); and Tokyo Opera City Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2020). Public collections are held at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; The High Museum, Atlanta, GA, USA; He Art Museum, Guangdong Province, China and Space K/ Kolon Museum, Seoul, Korea.

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Selected Images

Selected media

Dr. Jareh Das on Ulala Imai

On the occasion of MEMORY (2023)