Setsuko Aihara


Bog Queen – oil on canvas, 39 x 27 inches


Self Surgery – oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches


Why I chose to become an artist: I wanted to be liberated from the constraints of ‘clock time’ and from the self’s being split against itself. When I’m engaged in drawing, painting, and making a picture, I am free from such constraints.

My concern as a painter: As a member of society I am concerned to understand the human condition, and to express images from what I understand as well as what I do not understand. My concerns range from the philosophical and depth-psychological, through the social, environmental, and political (and especially the liberation of women), to human emancipation in general.

Narrative and allegorial paintings: I believe that narrative and allegorical paintings, especially the kinds developed in the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, can still be viable today, since the mythical patterns underlying human behavior don’t significantly change over time. Even though so much concerning the human condition has changed and been relativized, these genres continue to have rich potential today.

On method: I am fascinated by the depth and translucency of oil paintings created by using the time-consuming ‘old masters’ method, especially by the Venetian method with its incomparable colors achieved by multiple layering and glazing. Since I admire the profound expressiveness that this method can attain, I have chosen to learn it.

On skill: For me painting continues to demand a high degree of skill and craft. The time spent in acquiring this is validated by the expressive power it can achieve.

On composition: The structure or composition is crucial for any art work in whatever art medium. I take time to learn from studying the composition of past masterpieces, and to work out the composition carefully beforehand, while staying ready to adjust or change it when necessary (as in the case of the Venetian method).

On portraits: I am interested in expressing the sitter’s inner being, insofar as portraits issue from the imaginative soul of the artist and her sense of the soul of the sitter. I find joy, but also struggle, in getting the life of the subject onto the canvas, regardless of whether the person is living or deceased.

On art and history: Art isn’t over and done with, since art works can continue to move us and enhance our understanding of the human condition, and of the world we live in now. It’s up to the artist whether we can keep art and culture alive so that it can continue to enrich our lives. Without learning the past, how can a painter go forward in such a way as to inspire others?

My education: I studied political science (BA), linguistics (MA) and philosophy.

How I learned to paint: I learned how to paint mostly on my own from old masters’ paintings as well as reading texts written by artists, and books on art history, artistic methods, and so forth. I learned from paintings such as those by Giorgione, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Artemesia Gentileschi (who painted from a feminine psychological perspective), Van Dyck, Velazquez, and Delacroix. I have been also inspired by Michelangelo, Raphael and Bosch, as well as Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh, Edgar Ende and Francis Bacon.