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Mr. Image via Hong Kong Tatler.
With its cast of big-eyed, childlike "kawaii" characters, Mr.'s art may appear playful and carefree—but there's a darkness that lurks behind the 49-year-old Japanese artist's paintings.
People misunderstand me and the contents of my paintings. They just think they are nostalgic, cute, and look like Japanese anime. That may be true, but really, I paint daily in order to escape the devil that haunts my soul. The said devil also resides in my blood, and I cannot escape from it no matter how I wish. So I paint in resignation.
Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present the gallery 's first solo exhibition with Japanese artist Mr. since 2016, titled People misunderstand me and the contents of my paintings. They just think they are nostalgic, cute, and look like Japanese anime. That may be true, but really, I paint daily in order to escape the devil that haunts my soul. The said devil also resides in my blood, and I cannot escape from it no matter how I wish. So I paint in resignation. The exhibition showcases a significant progression in the artist's visual language and themes over the past several years.
Along with the brand-new series of paintings, the exhibition features several works created over the past six years which highlight Mr.'s technical drawing strengths beyond painting. Ranging from the 'Kawaii' (cute) to the 'kowai' (scary, dark), this large selection of work also reflects his creative journey through the high and low, bright and dark explorations of various subject matters.
As Mr. has been credited as one of the leading artists from Takashi Murakami's Superflat movement, his highly influential artworks have elevated the art form of the masses that is manga and anime into a high form of expression, while leading the way for many artists to follow in his footsteps.
At face value, Mr.'s seeming erotic anime-style depicts prepubescent boys and girls, however, the deeper meaning is the product of escapism from the artist's own dislocated family structure. His father, at the bottom of the social hierarchy as a common labourer, worked with chemicals in a plastic moulding factory, and his mother was a devout follower of a fanatic religious cult. While a high school student at the age of 17, Mr.'s brother was placed in a protection facility by police for over a decade after violently escalating a domestic quarrel. In this unstable family environment, Mr. often disappeared into the world of solitary play in order to escape from his reality.
While critics are eager to attach Mr.'s signature exaggerated otaku visuals that manifest the artist's fantasy to a specific theme (or as he himself describes them, his 'personal fetish'), in fact, it is the creation of art that acts as a therapeutic exercise for the artist - allowing him to heal from the estranged family relationship. Although many viewers are nostalgic about Mr.'s works, the latter cannot be reduced to a specific feeling, rather, it can be said to evoke innate nostalgia from our shared sentimental sceneries. The meaning behind Mr.'s works are fueled by his indignation towards the post-war Japanese nation and can be found lurking in modern events such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
The artist's experimentation and imagination have become increasingly active in recent years, ushering in a change in technique. This stems from Mr.'s obsession with simple image processing by computers (mainly due to the artist's low-tech preferences), resulting in the frequent use of silkscreen printing in order to produce the desired expressions on canvas, while at the same time incorporating this method more for his drawings.
A feature of these recent works is a new form of expression incorporating Japanese-style street art to depict a collision between the boisterous anger coming from media coverage of slums in Japan and the internal healing Mr. seeks himself.
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