Artists on Coping: Sonomi Kobayashi

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Beauty of Chaos #1, 2018, Alcohol ink on Synthetic vellum paper cutouts, and collaged, 14 1/4” x 11 1/2”, © Sonomi Kobayashi All rights reserved

Born and raised in Japan, Sonomi Kobayashi, is a New York based artist who is interested in science, physics, stars, nature, and spirituality. Most of her work is symbolic and abstract.  They are based on images that she sees during her meditation.  She also paints symbolic shapes that she finds attractive in nature.

Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Japan, and Europe, including Williamsburg Art & Historical Center (NYC), Flinn Gallery (CT), Galerie ARTAe, (Leipzig), The National Art Center (Tokyo).  She also has participated in book fairs at MoMA PS1, and many residencies including MASS MoCA and Vermont Studio Center.

AS: How are you coping?

SK: Right now, I am very calm and in peace. But I didn’t feel like this before. I had the moment that I became calm and in the present.

Right after WHO announced the pandemic, I was in Mexico. I was a little bit worried about my family and friends in Japan but not too worried about myself. Only 2 people were infected in Mexico and about 12 people in NYC at that time. In few days, things changed rapidly, started getting messages from my friends worrying about me. I started watching news and got very scared, almost panicking. I was alone and didn’t speak the language there. I tried to be positive but couldn’t get rid of the fear, stress and anxiety.

I shared my fear with my friend. He said I should just be in the present. “It’s nothing happening right around you at this moment, just enjoy your trip and you will.” I realized it’s my daily practice trying to be in the present. I decided to take a shower and meditate, going deep into my fear in my meditation instead of trying to be positive or ignoring it. After some time in meditation, the clouds went away, I became calm and in the present. I almost felt like the light went down and a new set appeared on the stage in a theater. After that I enjoyed my trip in Mexico and came back a couple of days earlier than I planned when Trump announced he was going to close the border to Mexico.

Clouds #8, 2017, Alcohol ink on Yupo paper, 11″ x 14″ © Sonomi Kobayashi All rights reserved

AS: Has your routine changed?

SK: I have more time to spend at my studio, cook more instead of eating out, and take care of some stuff I haven’t had time to do.

I work for outreach at The Art Students League and usually teach art to children at NYC’s recreation centers. Since all the centers are closed, they offered me to make some tuitional videos but without the right tools or help, also lack of enough guidelines (since it’s the first time for everybody), it’s taking time. I started filming and decided to edit myself mostly for the parents with kids at home. It’s not professional but I felt an urge from parents and baby-sitters that I know personally.

Nebula #2, 2017, Alcohol ink on Yupo paper, 12″ x 9”, © Sonomi Kobayashi All rights reserved

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

SK: Before my dramatic mental shift in Mexico, I almost felt as if I was swallowed by a collective consciousness of fear. I couldn’t get out of it even if I tried to be positive.

I experienced 9/11. The big difference from that and now is the worst thing happened first at 9/11 but then things only got better after, there was hope and people were very nice to each other. This time, the scariest thing is that you don’t know how bad it gets and when it ends. Not-knowing is very scary. Also, for some people, the people around them feel like enemies. I still sense that many people are in fear.

AS: What matters most right now?

SK: I think having your inner peace is very important right now. Working on my art is like a meditation for me, sometimes frustrating but usually find an inner peace once I am in “zone”. I hope people find their inner peace in their own way. It helps your immune system. Also, I believe the collective consciousness of fear would not help the situation. If I can help them in art some way- either giving fun art projects for families or showing my artwork, it would be my pleasure.

Beauty of Chaos (details), 2019, Alcohol ink on velum, cutout and collaged on wall, approx. 80″ x 165″, Installation view at Gallery White Cube Nagoya © Sonomi Kobayashi

Beauty of Chaos, 2019, Alcohol ink on velum, cutout and collaged on wall, approx. 80″ x 165″, installation view at Gallery White Cube Nagoya © Sonomi Kobayashi

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

SK: It is quite amazing that it’s happening not only at a part of the world. In the past, when some disaster happens, I think of the people there, but it still felt distant unless I am right in the middle of it. Right now, the world is facing the same thing, forcing each of us to think what is important in life. In a way, we are one and together right now. I hope this brings us a better shift for the whole world.

Purify, 2019, Alcohol ink on velum, cutout and collage on wall, approx. 192″ x 84″, Installation view at WAH Center © Sonomi Kobayashi

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: