Creator fantasista utamaro is drawing attention from around the world with his edgy design works.
Combining Japanese animation, sub-culture and art together, he creates ad designs and visuals for Hatsune Miku and Yuzu. He launched a magazine WHAT’S A FANTASISTA UTAMARO!? by QUOTATION this year, and series no. 2 was issued in October. He also designs clothes from original textiles that he creates.
An event introducing the artist is currently being held at Tokyo Kaihouku on the 2nd floor of Isetan Shinjuku. Until Oct 29. The event features two-dimensional artworks and three-dimensional fashion. We interviewed the artist about his creations.
- After working with visuals and design work, you have expanded to textiles and fashion as well. What are your motivations behind this?
I majored in textiles and fabrics when I was at art college. Sometimes I would make tapestries as part of my assignments, but I also enjoyed capturing the process of weaving the textiles on camera and then combining each scene to create animation. My stance of not wanting to limit the forms of expression has not changed since then. My current project is focused on fashion but my work lies in textiles. Textiles can become clothes or furniture, or even decorate an entire hotel. They are the base of food, clothing and shelter and that is the charm.
When I first worked with textiles in college, I was super excited. I carefully put the warp across the loom and wove the weft using shuttles. During the process, I learned about how textile is born. I was so thrilled when I did.
But, taking the fabric off the loom and looking at it, I was kind of disappointed to know it was just a piece of ordinary cloth. I was expecting something more fabulous and sensational, but it was no more than a piece of cloth lying in front of me. I felt as if the blue bird of happiness flew away and the spell was lifted. I was let down with the result. Then I sort of realized a circuit like aspect in human desire and was moved by it. I knew that I would make textiles over and over till I reached the end of imagination.
Every matter has to be trimmed to put into a certain frame. Even our stomach and life too. There is no limit in imagination. It goes on and on and expands itself. But, as soon as it appears in the real world, it needs to be trimmed and that feeling is similar to how I perceive textiles. For me, infinitely expanding patterns are imagination itself.
- You participated in the fabric show “Premiere Vision” in Paris last September with Komatsu Seiren, winning the Grand Prix of the PV Award. The colorful camouflage pattern with Japanese onomatopoeia ドドドドprints reflects the very world of utamaro. How did you come up with such a concept?
We frequently see onomatopoeia in manga. The reason I love manga is that we can sugar-coat something grotesque and ugly. Manga serves as a cushion to absorb shocks through the two dimensional world. Take Hatsune Miku for example, though she is not real, people believe and want her to exist. That’s the very reason she is popular. I am attracted to something supernatural and fragile in the two dimensional world.
“Mangakamo” is one of my representative works and was created imaged after Shibuya Scramble Crossing in camouflage color. 1 million people pass the crossing every day. There is an unwritten rule there that allows the people in Shibuya to do as they please. Whenever I go there, I feel it. Some girls in school uniforms sit on the ground putting on make-up and some are bold enough to pick up someone for a date.
If my showy “Mangakamo” were there, it would blend in with the people and become undistinguished. Very conspicuous in one place, but inconspicuous in another. I fused this feeling into my textiles. It is a superficial collage without a core and can be painted over to change the color. This is the best part.
A very shy girl can present herself in a costume at a cosplay gathering, because she is comfortable there. In a particular setting, people can feel very comfortable.
Actually there are so many “situations” where anybody can do something involuntarily. In Shibuya, spirit or philosophy enables us to feel like, “I can do this and do that here in Shibuya.” That’s just the same as the world view of “Mangakamo.”
- You mean that is the ethos to be free?
I really hope so. Japanese people are shy by nature and bad at appealing to others. So we need to create a “situation” to be free. With a situation like that, people will come together. They will be free and able to express themselves.
It might be a little hard to understand, but Mobile Suit Gundam is only able to fight face to face, because Minovsky particles prevented him from using long-distance radio equipment and radar. This is a “situation” intentionally created by the producer to make the robots fight face to face. The situation makes the story realistic. By preparing a natural “situation,” the robots can fight rationally. Likewise, there are many situations for us. It can be said that I am creating textiles to find such situations hidden in this world.
- Are you implying that we can become new types of people by knowing your artworks?
I am not thrusting myself on you. I’m not that pushy (laugh).
- This time you created many items such as coats and down jackets teaming up with designers. Did you ask the designers anything particular?
Not at all. I asked them to do whatever they wanted. The coat looks like a standard coat, but a gaudy textile is used for the lining. I am taken by the lining to be seen when the wind blows or when you take the coat off.
- You released WHAT’S A FANTASISTA UTAMARO!? by QUOTATION series no. 2. What are you going to do next? Are you thinking of creating a textile brand like Emilio Pucci?
Normally, original patterns are created to design something specific. As for me, I create the textiles first. Artworks are supposed to come first, so I work very hard to connect the textiles with art. I aim to move forward under the concept of connecting the infinitely increasing patterns. Beyond that, there is fashion, interior and something fascinating. I want to seize every possibility.
Advertisements and design in Japan have great quality, but they are thought to be very conservative. Japanese people tend to be introverted and do not communicate with the outer world very often. Few award-winning advertisements are known to the general. To me, this attitude is merely self-satisfaction. I'm not saying it is bad, but we should be more outgoing in creating something. There will be more surprises and excitement if we share with each other. I would like to be one of the people to represent Japan to introduce our culture, centering on the originality of manga and anime.