Naganawa is a naïve painter, or actually faux naive in the tradition of Paul Klee and Marc Chagall.  Those two artists were highly skilled masters who developed childlike styles. Both of them synthesized disparate cultures. Klee combined German practicality with African (by way of Morocco) sumptuousness, and Chagall, for all his Parisian sophistication, in spirit never left his village in Russia. Similarly, Naganawa, while her roots are in Japanese tradition, embraces the Cambodian culture.

The artist felt a deep sympathy for the Cambodians because of the suffering they endured during the years of war. She was inspired to go there and to help revive the spirits of people by teaching art and making of picture books to students.


The world famous temple complex Angkor Wat has strongly influenced Naganawa, particularly the many statues of female heavenly figures. Her brilliantly colored oil paintings depict these women, but instead of having them flying about, she brings them down to earth. Some sit comfortably on a sofa, or enjoy a day by the sea. Goddess’ have always provided an excuse for artists to portray women in the nude, and Naganawa does so with charm and innocence.

The artist's position is that humanity can rise from the ashes of war like a phoenix through innate creative and positive potential. One thinks of great monuments like Ankor Wat and Pyramids as being the remnants of dead civilizations.  Naganawa would seem to hold that if a civilization bloomed once, it can do so again.

about the artist

Eiko Naganawa