Suspension Bridge, hand-knit yarn and acrylic on canvas, 24 by 20 inches
  • All images courtesy the artist
  • Suspension Bridge, hand-knit yarn and acrylic on canvas, 24 by 20 inches

I like Paul Komada's art. I like looking at it and I like looking into it.

Looking at it: Bright yarns geometrically arranged, softness and hardness containing each other. His new pieces, at SOIL this month, are a literal stretch. Pieces of knitting are stretched delicately across precisely cut openings in stretched canvases, sometimes revealing the stretcher bars beneath. (Stretch, stretch, stretch.) Each knit piece is attached to the canvas by tiny, almost invisible hand-sewn stitches. Meticulous. Yet pulling against time. Won't these sag at least a little over the years? "I don't know," Komada said honestly at the opening. "The oldest ones I've made are only a few months old." He pauses. "I tried to make them so that they won't. The yarn is strong." I trust him.

The implied imagery is sometimes landscape (above) and sometimes figurative (below).

Animal Spirits, 36 by 36 inches
  • Animal Spirits, 36 by 36 inches

Then there are the references to other arts, like ukiyo-e, the tradition of Japanese woodblock prints whose name translates as "pictures of the floating world."

Still Floating World, 24 by 24 inches
  • Still Floating World, 24 by 24 inches

Looking into it: Komada's words are as plainspoken as his works. He reveals influences freely and talks non-mystically, needing no justification for what he's doing. He was born in Seattle, raised in Japan. Educated in painting, weaned on high modernism. After his art education, he worked as a monk at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo for three years.

When his son was born, he switched from painting to knitting because it was something he could do while taking care of the baby. (It's the kind of switch female artists make, and admit to making, all the time.) Rather than painting his own versions of Mondrian and Malevich, he knit them, then wrapped the knittings around stretchers as if they were canvases, or laid them on pedestals—turning them into appropriation sculptures. He showed them at 4Culture in 2010 (good pictures).

"I believe that my deep admiration of Western culture and my desire to be assimilated has driven my fascination with this subject," he writes.

He makes it sound so simple, like his works appear, but it isn't, and they aren't.