Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Artist Rimi Yang gathers precious gemstones of pigment, infusing them with an ethereal sensibility in a feminine fusion of East and West.
The Korea-born, Japan-raised painter began as a librarian before a divorce propelled her onto an artistic path. Her paintings are on view at Santa Fe’s Blue Rain Gallery.
“My mother told me before I talked, I was drawing,” Yang said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “I didn’t even think of artist as a profession. But when I was in high school, I was always in the art club.”
Using flurries of bold brushwork to create emotionally intense imagery, Yang tries not to “think too much” as she works. “I prefer art to flow by itself,” she said. “I want to be curious about what happens next. While painting, I, too, become a viewer and the art reminds me of my past. Sometimes, I see the faces of my sister, my mother or my grandmother as the works develop, although I don’t try to represent them specifically.”
Raised in Osaka, Japan, Yang arrived in the U.S. in 1986 and majored in library science, never thinking that her lifelong interest in art would eventually lead to a career. But private interest grew into a professional calling as Yang honed her skills at the world-renowned Florence Academy of Art in Italy, the Otis College of Art & Design and the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Design.
A full-time artist for 12 years, she has exhibited extensively in the United States and internationally.
Yang works primarily in oil on canvas, using small amounts of cold wax as her medium to add texture and a matte finish. Each painting revolves around a central, often poignant, figurative focal point, orbited by abstract patterns and designs.
Her more recent paintings reflect the influence of such Old Masters as Goya, Velasquez and Botticelli.
“The first time I saw the real Botticelli (in an Italian museum), I cried,” she said. “I didn’t understand why I cried. I felt like Botticelli, he tried to really create beautiful things, to really understand the truth. Every hand or head tilted; he tried to capture the perfection of the beauty. I wanted to learn it, too, kind of like eating it.”
In school, she noticed many of her classmates working in abstraction. She decided to experiment with the style, making dark and “more serious” work.
“I thought I didn’t understand it, so I jumped into painting abstract,” she said.
The paintings sold, but she remained unhappy.
“I felt so bad because I don’t know what I’m doing,” Yang said.
She decided to return to the figure to communicate more of herself, imbuing the calmness of Asian philosophy into her work.
“You can’t just paint from the head,” she said
Yang retained a measure of abstraction through flurries of patterns surrounding her figures like fabric.
“I always say painting is like a chocolate box,” she said. “I just want to reflect my memory and experience.”
Viewers make up their own stories, Yang said. She wanted to make hers pure and simple.
“It’s almost like a small happiness,” she said. “I thought, ‘If I can give pleasure on that simple level, I am happy.”