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Brilliantly Textured Body Paintings Turn the Human Form into a Walking Work of Art

Artist Yusk Imai has a long-held fascination with human anatomy, and he displays this reverence for the body in an unconventional painting project called Exoskeleton. The skin is his canvas as hands, arms, legs, and shoulders are covered in intricate textures that mimic reptile scales, brushed metal, and feathers. Imai's meticulous handling and solid black painting is reminiscent of the blackout-style tattoo trend we've recently admired. Unlike those tattoos, however, his work is created with acrylic ink and water-based markers, making its existence fleeting.

Real exoskeletons act as outer skin that protects an organism's body, most commonly seen on insects. As the name suggests, this concept is at the heart of Imai's project. In an interview with Hi Fructose, he stated, “My idea is to create a second skin for a human body, a protection, another layer.” This was a challenge for the artist, because he typically works on more conventional surfaces. “Unlike my paintings,” he explained, “I cannot twist, create, invent, do whatever I like with the body.”

Although a difficult endeavor, body painting has informed Imai's overall artistic practice. “It is a type of study. I learn a lot about the human anatomy when I paint in a body,” he reflected. “I see how the lines behave when the person moves, how the ink moves and changes the whole thing.” He took that knowledge and applied it to his works on canvas. “It makes me paint the shapes better. I can imagine the muscles, the bones. It works as a form of study to me.”

Yusk Imai: Website | Instagram
via [Hi Fructose]

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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