In Rugged Heart, Claudia Kogachi uses pictorial rugs to explore family ties and personal anxieties. The show has its roots in the global pandemic. Last year’s nationwide lockdown limited the artist’s access to painting supplies and encouraged her to experiment with new modes of making. She began to create tufted rugs, being attracted to the functional and sensuous aspects of the objects. Although slower and more arduous than painting, the process permitted a degree of mental disconnection. Rugged Heart brings together rugs from three important series, all of which nod towards the pandemic. Uncle Gagi sees Kogachi reflect on the loss of her jiichan (grandfather). She has recreated several of his personal items, including his aloha shirts and board shorts. A piece of clothing can be a powerful marker of its wearer, carrying their scent long after they have passed, and forever evoking their appearance. Kogachi’s rugs serve as monuments, sharing the visual potency and the comforting tactility of her jiichan’s attire, and helping to compensate for her inability to travel to Hawaiʻi, where he lived, and where her obaachan (grandmother) remains.
The series All the Careers I’ve Ever Considered Doing in Order to Finance My Art Career shows Kogachi at work as an electrician, a landscaper, a nanny, and a realtor (this last job is the only one of the four that she has not actually attempted). All are sensible professions that might, in theory, supplement her work as an artist, which cannot help but feel especially precarious during a time of heightened economic uncertainty. The pieces are characterised by quirky angles and proportions, as well as a sense of self-scrutiny. They continue Kogachi’s well-known practice of representing herself and members of her family with blue skin. Early paintings show her and her mother engaging in competitive activities, like boxing and chess, and allude to parent–child friction. In such works, the skin colour connects with the notion of ‘feeling blue’. It also tends to reinforce the pictures’ symbolic nature and broad relatability. The scenes in All the Careers I’ve Ever Considered Doing in Order to Finance My Art Career are more literal, but they, too, are underpinned by widely felt concerns. A great many of us are presently worrying about job security. …
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26 March to 24 April 2021
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland