Lives and Works: Kanagawa
Masato Shigemori was born in Hiroshima, Japan, where the first atomic bomb in the world was dropped.The town was destroyed under a mushroom cloud, as shown in a well-known photograph. When he was a child, he felt tens of thousands of people under the mushroom cloud like a insect or flower. Strangely, its imagery was attractive to him. He imitated the photograph repeatedly because he was addicted to drawing.
He had learned this method by looking carefully at the Western traditional art and the Impressionist art at art museums. Realistic description of Ingres, the colorful tones of van Gogh, and the formative art of Modigliani helped him to develop his aesthetic sense. In contrast, for him, growing up in Japan, the most common recreation in the 1980s was “manga”. He learned expressions which connected the real world to the virtual world like myths from “Dragon Ball” and “Saint Seiya”. He was preoccupied by the Hollywood SF movies, Western pop and rock music, as well as Japanese manga. But he had begun to suspect the reality that the trends came from Europe and America. He had become aware of the difference between Western and Eastern influences.
When he was in his late 20’s, he searched for a Japanese identity inspired by the way the Impressionists were once affected by Ukiyo-e from Japan. Their “expression of line” changed his own way of expression fundamentally. It made realistic description simpler. There was the potential for making spectator images. Its expression was so natural for him because he was familiar with manga from his childhood. The way of simplifying and compensating for it with imagination is common sense in traditional Japanese customs as well as in Shintoism (Japan's original religion). He had experienced the belief for something invisible in traditional Japanese customs. It occurred to him that the so-called animism was an inimitable religion in Japan.
While watching the tsunami conquer the Toh-hoku town on television, in spring 2011, he had remembered the mushroom cloud which he saw during his childhood and at that time felt that humans would not be the center of the world. Humans bully insects, pick flowers, and are swallowed by the ocean. While Shigemori’s works are based on Western academic art, he began to use elements from Ukiyo-e such as the flat lines and the shallow expression which appeared in his works. The lifeless glitter of the eyes, simplified flowers floating in the air, animals with human-like emotions, are characteristic of his works.
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