Doe-eyed floating heads of adolscent cartoon girls in pastels have become somewhat iconic of Japanese artist Mr.'s own artistic practice, as he develops away from his previously more sexualised works. However, he continues to show traces of his "Superflat" origins; coined by another Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, the "Superflat" movement refers both to a two-dimensionality in Japanese visual art, but also a connection to the way in which cultural references from the East and West are appropriated seamlessly in Japanese pop culture.
Ahead of his first exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong entitled 'Floating in the Air in the Vicinity of a Convenience Store', we speak to Mr. about how he came up with his exhibition title and what about Japanese Otaku culture that coninues to inspire him.
Your latest exhibition is titled ‘Floating in the Air in the Vicinity of a Convenience Store’. How did you come up with this title and what does it mean? What is your inspiration for this show?
Could you tell us a bit about your artistic practice and how you prepare for a solo exhibition like this one? When a gallery like Lehmann Maupin approaches you to do a show do you already have an idea of what you want to create for the show?
For ‘Floating in the Air in the Vicinity of a Convenience Store’, you will also be including some drawings that have your personal notes and scribbles that are part of your daily practice as an artist. Why is it important for you to show these alongside your works that often look very smooth and ‘flat’?
Speaking of materials and mediums, you also often use found objects to create large-scale sculptures or installations, which you paint over at times. How do these objects relate to your work? You also recently collaborated on a project with Gucci. How do you think the art and material objects correlate?
Speaking of flat, you are one of Takashi Murakami’s protégés and one of the earliest artists to be represented at Kaikai Kiki Gallery. How did you start working with him? What are some of the things that you learnt from him that continues to influence your practice today?
Your work continues to draw links to the ‘Superflat’ movement first identified by Murakami, which relates to a two-dimensionality present in Japanese visual art and pop culture. How do you think your practice continues, as well as differs, from this style? In terms of your artistic practice, what are you currently most interested in today?
Your works are often associated with Japanese pop culture and ‘Otaku’, which is very much connected to Japanese anime. Are there any particular anime or manga series that have inspired ‘Floating in the Air in the Vicinity of a Convenience Store’?
I actually saw you at Art Basel in Hong Kong and you were dressed almost like one of the girls you often paint - in a cute sailor outfit. Are your outfits part of a certain performance that you engage in as an artist? Does this relate in any way to your decision as an artist to use a mysterious name like Mr.?
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year? You are participating in the Yokohama Triennale, so will you continue to expand on what you have created for the triennale and ‘Floating in the Air in the Vicinity of a Convenience Store’? Or are you interested in something new?