Sowed Them to the EarthJessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, USA27 July - 16 September 2023
ROH Sowed Them to the Earth

Jessica Silverman is pleased to announce Kei Imazu: Sowed Them to the Earth, the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and her first in the United States, running from July 27 to September 9, 2023. Debuting eleven new oil paintings and two wire sculptures, Imazu’s point of departure for this exhibition is the myth of the goddess Hainuwele, whose death propagated root crops on Seram Island in Indonesia. Her fantastical paintings connect the region’s ecology to its cultural and colonial histories using gestural mark- making and hyperreal depictions of the body, plants, geological maps and ancestral wooden sculptures. Imazu’s practice is world building, and as a mother herself, celebrates a maternal origin for all living beings.

Born in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1980 and educated at the Tama Art University in Tokyo, Kei Imazu’s painting practice begins on her computer. Using images she takes herself or finds online, the artist creates 3D renderings of objects and digitally collages them to serve as sketches for her paintings. Translating her tableaus into oil paintings, Imazu’s shadow and tonality mimic stage lighting, while her vivid color and linework capture a kind of technological realism.




ROH Sowed Them to the Earth


The artist’s newest paintings incorporate images of root vegetables from Indonesian markets and sculptural objects found in local antique stores into surreal compositions. Curves of Time (2023) depicts a Jōmon Venus figurine tucked between slices of glowing orange and deep purple yams to suggest a dialogue between the Japanese goddess figure and the Hainuwele myth. Indeed, fragmented dogū figures have been discovered throughout Japan, where sustenance rituals from the Jōmon period also sought to yield crops from the body of a birth goddess. In the background, a spine and ribcage pose ideas around life and death, birth and decay, and the interconnectedness of our corporeal experience to the Earth.

Lush green and brown earth tones in Green Veins / Falling Goddess (2023) parallel Hainuwele’s anatomy with the island’s geology and petroleum extraction. At six by six feet, the painting is an entanglement of Indonesian vegetation, mammary glands, and organs threaded together with a vein-like outline of a human figure, launching an ecofeminist critique of colonialism and invading bodies against the reproductive labor of birth and the maternal energy of land. At over 11 feet wide and 6 feet tall, the largest work in the exhibition titled Blossoming Organs (2023) melds bodily and ecological narratives into a poetic retelling of Hainuwele’s matriarchal legacy. A floating mass of realistic and abstract body parts, tubers, and animals rise from sweeping brush strokes and clamor above the skeleton of the goddess whose death would bring forward life.

Sowed Them to the Earth invites viewers to contend with the complex relationship between humans, nature, and its feminine spirit, moving beyond exploitation and towards protection and care.

Born 1980, Yamaguchi, Japan
Lives and works in Bandung, Indonesia

Kei Imazu utilizes everyday contemporary internet environment in collecting all sorts of artworks and objects that exist in and beyond the form of an image. After thoroughly going through her great volume of collected data, she distorts, reconstructs, and sketches them digitally. With the sketch she has created, Imazu traces it onto the canvas using oil paint, a method she currently employs to create her artworks.

Imazu has several solo exhibitions including Sowed Them to the Earth at Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, USA (2023); Mapping the Land/Body/Stories of its Past at ANOMALY, Tokyo, Japan (2021); Anda disini / You are here, Museum Haus Kasuya, Kanagawa, Japan (2019); Measuring Invisible Distance,Yamamoto Gendai, Tokyo, Japan (2018); and Overgrown, ROH Projects,Jakarta, Indonesia (2018). Her group exhibitions include Frieze Seoul, COEX Mall, Seoul, South Korea (2022); WAGIWAGI at documenta fifteen,Hübnerareal, Kassel, Germany (2022); Declaring Distance: Bandung — Leiden, Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, Bandung, Indonesia (2022); AAAAHHH!!! Paris Internationale, Paris, France (2018) – all featuring her collaborative work with Bagus Pandega; 1, ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia (2022); We Paint!, Palais de Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (2022); Last Words, ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia (2021); We Are Here, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, USA (2021); Tiger Orchid, Art Basel OVR: Miami Beach (2020); Roppongi Crossing: Connexion, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2019); Meet the Collection - 30th Anniversary of the Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama Museum of Art, Kanagawa, Japan (2019), and Taming Y/Our Passion, Aichi Triennale, Nagoya, Japan (2019), among others. Kei Imazu is the finalist of Prix Jean-François Prat in 2020.

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Copyright belongs to The Artist

Text by Jessica Silverman Gallery

Photography by The Artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery

Courtesy of The Artist, Jessica Silverman Gallery, and ROH