Piscatorial Pictorials: Paintings of Fish

Let’s see how eight artists capture the same subject—fish—in their paintings. The artists are Yuji Kanamaru, Annabelle Marquis, Aries Wu, Spencer Lau, Takahide Komatsu, Andrew Tomkins, Camille Henrot and Szabotage.

1. Yuji Kanamaru: Visitor from the Past – Pirarucu

Visitor From the Past : Pirarucu by Yuji Kanamaru
Yuji Kanamaru; Visitor From the Past – Pirarucu – detail view (mixed media on board); Art Central 2016 (Whitestone Gallery)

Yuji Kanamaru’s art focuses on animals and buildings—with fish and elephants being popular subjects. The type of fish in the painting is a pirarucu (also known as arapaima), a very large fish that can grow to up to three metres in length and can weigh up to 150 kilograms. It is native to the Amazon and is one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. Fossils very similar to this fish have been found that date back to the middle of the Miocene period, making this fish, as the title of the painting states, a visitor from the past.

Title: Visitor From the Past - Pirarucu (Detail View); Artist Yuji Kanamaru; Mixed media on board; Art Central (Whitestone Gallery). Photo by longzijun.
Visitor From the Past – Pirarucu (detail view)

This detail view of the painting shows how the artist uses blotchy brushstrokes, lack of perspective, grid-like lines, earthy colors and swatches of different kinds of canvas to give his paintings an aged, ancient feel and an appearance that seems part patchwork fabric, part map and part illustration.

Mini-bio: Japanese artist Yuji Kanamaru was born in 1978 in Kanagawa and attended the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (studying under Masataka Oyabu and Chinami Nakajima). His paintings, often of towns and/or animals, have an exotic and nostalgic feel to them.

You can see more of Yuji Kanamaru’s work at the Whitestone Gallery site: www.whitestone-gallery.com/artists/yuji-kanamaru

2. Annabelle Marquis: NewCalypso

Newcalypso by Annabelle Marquis;
Annabelle Marquis; Newcalpyso (acrylic and collage on canvas); Affordable Art Fair HK 2016 (Arteria Gallery)

Like Yuji Kanamaru, Montreal-based artist Annabelle Marquis combines paint (in this case acrylics) and other materials to create a kind of collage. The effect, however, is quite different. In Yuji Kanamaru’s works the combination of fabric and paint creates a rustic, patchwork feel, while in the paintings of Annabelle Marquis, the paint and materials are blended together to create a shimmery, more vibrant feel. You can see her technique in the following video:

Mini-bio: Canadian artist Annabelle Marquis was born in Montreal in 1979 and studied at Cégep de Saint-Laurent and le Collège Ahuntsic. She worked for several years as a designer and illustrator before devoting herself to painting. She is known for her colorful, expressive collages.

You can find out more at the artist’s website: annabellemarquis.com

3. Takahide Komatsu: Swimming up -Minnow-

Takahide Komatsu; Swimming up -Minnow- (2018, acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Gallery Kogure)

This is a series of minimalist paintings by Japanese artist Takahide Komatsu that simply shows tiny fish swimming upstream. The artist is concentrating solely on the shape of the fish and the flow of the water. This style is much more minimalist than much of the artist’s other work, which tends to make use of gold and silver leaf and which features more detailed and more colorful depictions of butterflies and fish.

Takahide Komatsu; Swimming up -Minnow- (2018, acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Gallery Kogure)
Swimming up -Minnow- (detail view)

Mini-bio: Japanese artist Takahide Komatsu was born in Miyazaki in 1979 and studied at the Fuji Art Laboratory and Yamamoto Art Studio before attending the Artist Course, Kyusyu Designer Gakuin.

You can see more of Takahide Komatsu’s work at:

4. Szabotage: Koi Tag

Koi fish tag by Szabotage (Sheung Wan, HK). Photo by longzijun

Street artist Szabotage’s tag (a kind of graffiti signature) is a koi fish leaping out of the water. In an interview with TimeOut magazine, the artist explains the background behind this choice:

Originally, I asked a local restaurant owner if I could paint a side of his wall. They asked to see my designs and to sketch a fish. So I drew a koi fish for them. After almost 10 different sketches, which the restaurant owner all rejected, they questioned whether he could actually draw fish. “I was really taken aback by it and it really annoyed me. I bit my tongue and, in defence, I started to paint koi fish around the area. That’s how it started and now I draw it everywhere. It was a time of my life where I was very sensitive about what people said about me and my work….The koi jumping out of water is jumping out of its comfort zone, from water to air. It is enjoyment, it’s invigorating. There’s a sense of jubilation and freedom in its movement.

Hong Kong street artist Szabotage on the negative connotations surrounding graffiti art
Koi fish tag by Szabotage (Sheung Wan, HK). Photo by longzijun

Mini-bio: Szabotage is the alias of street artist Gustav Szabo. He used to work as a designer and architect. Originally hailing from the street-art-rich neighborhood of Shoreditch in London, Szabotage has he recently relocated to Hong Kong.

You can see more of the artist’s work at his website: www.szabotage.com.hk

5. Aries Wu: Untitled

Artist: Aries Wu (Aries Art Studio); Fotanian (2014). Photo by longzijun.
Aries Wu; photo taken at Fotanian 2014 (Aries Art Studio). Photo by longzijun.

Aries (胡浚諺) is a young Hong Kong artist who focuses on realistic paintings and sketches of everyday objects, his work drawing the viewers’ attention to the visual poetry of the world around them. In Hong Kong, steamed or fried whole fish is a common dish at dinner. In this painting, two silver and black colors and curved lines of the two fish contrast with the grid of white tiles of a typical Hong Kong kitchen counter.

Mini-bio: Aries Wu was born in Hong Kong and studied at the Royal Institute of Technology (in the Department of Pure Arts) in Melbourne, Australia before returning to Hong Kong and setting up the Aries Art Studio. He used to work more with sketches, but he now specializes in oil painting. 

For more information, about the artist, you can visit his website: aries-art-studio.com

6. Spencer Luk: Untitled

Untitled (2013) by Spencer Luk (1816 Studio); Fotanian 2014. Photo by longzijun.
Spencer Luk; Untitled (2013); Fotanian 2014 (1816 Studio)

Visiting Spencer Luk’s (Luk Ho-sun) studio during the Fotanian open day, I was struck by the wide range of styles and media on display. His work ranges from realistic life drawings to cartoon-like figures of commuters to more abstract paintings like Untitled (shown above). Even in his abstract work, the inspiration can be seen bubbling up towards the surface. In Untitled, for example, the colors, sense of movement and light are based on swimming goldfish.

The photos of the paintings of Spencer Luk and Aries Wu were taken at Fotanian (www.fotanian.org), a weekend art festival when artists in the industrial district of Fotan in Hong Kong open their doors to the public.

Mini-bio: Spencer Luk is a Hong Kong artist, interior designer and lifestyle consultant. He originally studied and trained in the field of furniture design (at the Hong Kong School Of Interior & Furniture Design and at the Morrison Hill Technical Institute), before taking a series of workshops and courses ranging from Western-style painting to architectural perspective & rendering at various institutions in Hong Kong and overseas). 

7. Camille Henrot: Study for Big Fish Small Fish

Artist: Camille Henrot; Title: Study for Big Fish Small Fish (2015); Watercolor on paper; Art Basel Hong Kong (Gallery: Metro Pictures). Photo by longzijun.
Camille Henrot; Study for Big Fish Small Fish (2015, watercolor on paper); Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Metro Pictures)

The painting is from a series of simple, almost-cartoonish watercolors by French artist Camille Henrot that is meant to show inequity and injustice in mythology and modern life.

Mini-bio: Camille Henrot was born in Paris in 1978 and is now based in New York. She studied film animation at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Her body of work is extremely varied and includes sketches, paintings, videos, sculptures and installations.

You can see more of the artist’s work at her website: www.camillehenrot.fr

8. Andrew Tomkins: Panel No.3

Andrew Tomkins; Panel 3 (2018, ink, enamel and crayon on polyester ); Art Central 2018 (Art Atrium)

In this work, Australian artist Andrew Tomkins portrays goldfish swimming in a Japanese-style pond. The image is created by painting over intricate patters of hand-cut polyester paper patterns. The paper is then arranged on different planes, giving the painting a sense of depth and also helping to create a sense of sunlight on water.

Mini-bio: Australian artist Andrew Tomkins was born in 1955 and originally trained as a builder and surveyor before attending Julian Ashton Art School. In his earlier work, he focused on painting, while his more recent work tends to involve mixed media (involving paint and cutting polyester paper). Throughout his career, however, his art has mainly focused on nature and the environment.

You can see more of the artist’s work on the Art Atrium website: artatrium.com.au/andrew-tomkins

9. Li Geng Nin: Childhood Memories #2

Li Geng Min: Childhood memories #2 (Oil on canvas; Art WeMe Contemporary Gallery; Affordable Art Fair 2019)

Here is a more surrealistic take on a Goldfish by Chinese artist Li Geng Min This vibrantly-colored work, with its pair of pandas riding a giant flying goldfish, evokes childhood imagination.

Mini-bio: Chinese artist is based in Shenzen. Li graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in Department of Education and then from 2001 to 2006 worked as a design illustrator.

You can see more of the artist’s work on the Art WeMe website: www.artweme.com/product-category/li-gengmin-李耿民/

Go Further

This section includes links to online photo galleries, discussion questions and an art challenge.


Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. Which of the fish paintings do you like best? Why?
  2. It seems that fish are quite popular among painters! Why is that?
  3. What ideas can fish represent or symbolize?

Art Challenge

Draw, sketch or paint a fish!

~ text and photos by longzijun


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