Saori Kanda Solo Exhibition

Saori Kanda Solo Exhibition "LOVE YOUR SELF"

2022.09.10(Sat) – 2022.09.15(Thu)

YUGEN Gallery hosted a solo exhibition by Saori Kanda called Love Your Self from Saturday, September 10 through Thursday, September 15.

Liberating the soul through dance and paint


Saori Kanda uses her body as a medium of expression as she develops abstract images in acrylic on oversized canvases. She calls herself Odori Eshi, or "dance painter," and combines techniques from butoh dance theater with painting through music in pieces that she has performed at ceremonies and art festivals around the world.

Kanda has also collaborated with numerous major brands, including houses like Cartier, and has offered works to the World Heritage Site of Nakagusuku Castle in Okinawa, Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine in Nara, and the Kibitsuhiko Shrine in Okayama. The Love Your Self exhibition celebrates 20 years of Kanda's artistic work and an attempt to express her identity as a Self Love Activist.

Creation as a ritual for all five senses


Saori Kanda was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, but mostly grew up in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. In the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, supplies grew scarce, and her greatest pleasure became drawing on the large bundles of telex paper her father would bring home from work. Later, after moving to Dubai, she fell in love with the beauty of Islamic designs, such as the mosaic patterns decorating mosques and flowing Arabic calligraphy. Her memory was also imprinted with the mystical beauty of women wrapped in black veils and the scent of incense left in passing.

The beauty of Japanese chiyogami and washi paper, which she received as souvenirs from Japanese visitors, also resonated with her in life abroad. Her attraction to Japan was strong, so much that she would lose herself staring at and copying down books of ukiyo-e paintings and albums of kimonos and Japanese tattoos.

The rhythmic repetition of the motifs in Islamic patterns can be described as "visible music" that brings peace to the viewer's spirit, and is in a way a visual manifestation of prayer and contemplation of Allah. Seeing connections in Japanese patterns such as with chiyogami paper became a source for her work in enticing all five senses through "a ritual that connects to something as huge as outer space."

While still a student at Musashino Art University, Kanda began designing clothing using kimono patterns and tattoos as motifs, and made her mark after a commission to create a pop-up store at Shibuya PARCO. Then, in 2002, she met singer Asuka Hayashi and had a musical experience that was like "lightning coursing through my whole body." That awakened her desire to try physical expression through music, and marked her awakening as an Odori Eshi.

Unconscious thrill of creativity


Ever since, she says that her encounters with musicians have always opened new doors of perception. She has thus been putting her theme of "Liberating the Soul's Pleasure" into practice using a wide range of techniques, not only butoh performance but also photography, poetry, and more recently, VR and other video technologies.

Liberation of the soul, which focuses on the unbridled irrationality latent in human beings. and escapes from reason which tries to suppress it, may be seen as part of a line of thought represented by Nietzsche. Nietzsche connected the irrational to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, and saw it as a creative escape from the enforced moral order of good/evil, male/female, clean/unclean. This is the basis for modern beliefs that true creativity lies in non-rational, unconscious energy, over which the artist herself has no control.

Kanda says, "I am resolved to live honestly with my soul," and calls for an exploration of true love for your own life, not that of another. She has named herself a Self Love Activist, and from 2020 has been working on a series of works on the themes of Goddess Liberation and Eros Liberation. This exhibition will be a full-fledged unveiling of Saori Kanda's worldview.

Sexuality as the source of sacred life


After 20 years as an artist, Kanda has come to a clear realization of concepts like the "release of sexual energy" and the "awakening of the goddess nature." Sexuality, the source of life, should not be an object of egoistic desire, nor a shame to be hidden. She sets it as the source of sacred life and creative power.

Kanda herself, like many women, was raised with the idea that sexuality is taboo. "The block was so strong that I had extreme difficulty talking about sexual matters even with my female friends, not just my family. I had the same erotic energy inside me as anyone else, but I had these strong beliefs that as a woman it was something shameful, and I feared that if I was open about my erotic self I would be rejected as an artist," she says. How did she come to such ideas? In considering that, she came to the realization that denying sexuality is the same as denying life itself, and that in order to truly love herself she would have to face sexuality.

She began seeking to respect her own inborn sexuality as life, and trying to overcome a life of conflict through vital self love. That also led to an interrogation of the common view that self pleasure is also something shameful. She felt instead that it was a noble act of self care and healing, and a celebration of life. The resulting work, "self pleasure," thus depicts an action of deep self affirmation.

Kanda says that when painting live, she can achieve a trance-like state divested of all ego, and has experienced the birth of a "dragon" on the canvas as the traces of intense energy. Kanda says that her creative work over the past decade or more as an Odori Eshi has been driven by aggressive and dynamic "masculinity" that resides within. However, she has had to suspend her Odori Eshi work over the past few years because of the pandemic, and after spending some time confronting her own core, she realized that she had reached a stage where she could listen to her inner self as a woman and more carefully nurture her "femininity."

Descend into human darkness for true healing

"As an artist, I have an aggressive masculinity, but I also certainly exist as an erotic goddess filled with gentleness. Many personalities exist within me, like a shamanic self that transcends gender, and one innocent like an infant. There was a time when I questioned and struggled with the existence of these various selves, but now I am resolved to accept and love all of them. I have compassion for all. There is no other inside me that I do not wish to see. I am ready to love myself. I have the courage."

Kanda awoke to the goddess within her, and has come to a phase where the masculine and feminine poles of her inner self can join in love. She intuits that once those achieve balance, her life energy will be released and heightened even more.

"There is a radiance of life that overflows only when we truly recognize, believe in, and love sexual energy. When you love yourself as yourself, and when I love myself as myself, and we can cherish the primal energy that fills our bodies and souls, we will feel a deeper confidence in self that will eventually bring a sense of security from within and healing energy to those around us. Deeply confronting your sexual energy intentionally is vital for raising a life of loving ourselves and others."

The works she first exhibited in the spring of 2022 demonstrate a change from that point, with the appearance of soft pinks and other pastels totally unlike the colors she had used before. They convey a sense that her perspective as an artist has changed with a refocus on feminine sexuality, and that she is at the turning point of being reborn as an artist.

Kanda has awakened anew through a true acceptance of sexual energy. Her works now contain within them a story not just for herself, but one that—now more than ever—should be shared with others: "Believe in yourself. Have the courage to love."

Life drawing event

The artist will perform a live painting event on the second day of the exhibition, September 11, 2022 (Sunday) from 17:00 to 17:30. Come and experience the dynamic creation of a wall-covering mural.

Note: Entry restrictions may be put in place depending on the number of visitors. We appreciate your understanding.
Note: Pictures produced during the live drawing will be displayed during the exhibition.

Highlight works:

Note: Some works on display may change. We appreciate your understanding.

Regarding sales:

At the same time as the exhibition is held, it will be possible to view and purchase the works on the YUGEN Gallery official online store.




AR art installation The Light of Kukai - Technology and the Sacred at Toji temple, Tokyo





Emerging Tokyo by Tagboat at White Box Art in New York





Solo exhibition COMTESSE×SAORI KANDA at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Tokyo



Exhibited work Onsen Ningyo Folding Screen at TAGBOAT× Hyakudan Kaidan

See also:

Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry by Daud Sutton (‎ Wooden Books (June 27, 2018))

Saori Kanda


Born in Yamaguchi / Raised in Iraq & Dubai With a strong admiration for Japan Touch the aesthetic sense rooted in various lifestyles around the world. "Releasing the joy of the soul" to Thema An artist who expresses the way of life itself. From 2020, she started a series of works with the themes of "Goddess Liberation" and "Eros Liberation". Started activities as a SelfLove activist. Confronting "sex" as the source of life in the sense of life and death, and embodying the importance of loving oneself again in his works, he expresses himself through a wide range of methods, including photography, dance, painting, music, video, and poetry.

Go to author page


2022.09.10(Sat) - 2022.09.15(Thur)


YUGEN Gallery


Totate International Building 3F, 2-12-19 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002



Weekdays: 14:00-19:00
Weekends: 13:00-19:00
Note: will close at 17:00 on the last day


Artist appearance:

Present at gallery every day during the exhibition

Live Event
2022.09.11 (Sun) 17:00-17:30



Entrance fee:



Please note that the exhibition period and opening hours are subject to change without notice depending on circumstances.