b. 1970, Japan

Shintaro Miyake Biography

At first sight, Shintaro Miyake’s approach may seem only recreational and aesthetically pleasing – he belongs to the Kawaii generation. Yet the artist’s spontaneity wittily plays with Japanese historical and cultural symbols. Widely acknowledged and internationally acclaimed for his series of works revolving around the Star Wars universe, Shintaro Miyake’s work seems guided by his specific artistic approach rather than his exceptional artistic skills.

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Flirting with Outsider Art, especially the works of Austrian artists from the Gugging such as Oswald Tschirtner and Johann Hauser, he sets up a creative process relying on wood and rough, child-like drawings. His art work takes on various forms, the best known being silhou- ettes cut out of plywood and covered in large strokes of pastel. These characters are easily recognizable, with their long limbs, large heads and their astonishing disguises often referencing a specific culture. The now famous Sweet-San, a recurring character, often trades outfits at each appearance; among which a Minotaur, a stormtrooper (the imperial soldiers in Star Wars), or even a white cloud in the blue sky.

Just add to this his original performances and you will start to get an idea of what Shintaro Miyake is all about. He sews and wears his own outfits, including those for his public live drawing sessions. His costumes are often related to his characters, thus creating a dialogue between the public and his art. This is a true cosplay act, and each new appearance is long awaited. In 2006, whilst at a beaver themed exhibition in Boston, Shintaro Miyake drew during a three day live performance on a 30 feet wall dressed as a beaver. At the same time, he was also featured in a documentary, where, still in character, he picked up branches to build a lodge.

In his multifaceted art, national history plays an especially important role as a narrative source.

During the Tomio Koyama Gallery exhibition in 2005, Shintaro Miyake explored the Heian Era (794 – 1185), specifically the battles of the Genpei war (1180 – 1185). The artist’s performance tells the story of a young man, Commander Taira no Atsumori (1169 – 1184), killed during the Ichinotari battle by Naozane Kumagai from the rival clan Mimamota. The legend has it Kumagai wanted to spare the life of the young man because of his youth and beauty, which reminded him of his own son. This harrowing story is still very popular in Japan, where it is regularly staged in No, Kabuki and Bunraku theatres. Shintaro Miyake shares his personal view of the story using the Sweet- San character in a series of drawings and a performance.

In one of his latest solo exhibitions at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in 2008, entitled Path to Civilization, he leaves the shores of Japan as well as the XIIth century to visit another civilization: Ancient Egypt. There, he quits his search for a true Japa- nese identity to join History’s dreamscape – thus demonstrating the universal scope of his art.

At the Basel Art Fair in 2008, Shintaro Miyake followed the same principles and took inspira- tion from Japanese culture and history to deal with contemporary matters. He staged again the 2006 performance Naoshima Standard, but this time inside a renowned international, commercial space. Visitors would come across this giant octopus performing a tea ceremony – a provocative display since the octopus tradi- tionally symbolises the merchants of the pros- perous Edo era. All the art dealers therefore found themselves the subject of his parody during this most prestigious art fair. The artist was also intending to highlight 2008, a truly golden year for the art market.

Any Westerner willing to grasp the scope of Shintaro Miyake’s works of art requires a fine understanding of Japanese culture and its history. However, the spectacular and intriguing creative process involved, as well as the rawness of the characters which allows them to reach out to a universal audience, lead the public to wonder what they are truly witnessing. The active part played by the audience creates another bond with the artist, whilst his work captures the imagination, adding a sense of true knowledge to his signature style.

[Text: "Nouvelle Grande" by Sophie Cavaliero, Le Lezard Noir, 2011]

His work is a part of the public and private collections of Takahashi Collection, Art/Brut Center Gugging, Rubell Family Collection, Kistefos Museet, Jevnaker Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, The JAPIGOZZI Collection.

Shintaro Miyake Featured Artworks

Ohne Titel [Untitled] by Shintaro Miyake contemporary artwork drawing
Shintaro Miyake Ohne Titel [Untitled], 2004 Crayon & pencil
28 x 38 cm
Galerie Krinzinger Contact Gallery
Ohne Titel by Shintaro Miyake contemporary artwork works on paper
Shintaro Miyake Ohne Titel, 2004 Crayon and pencil paper
28 x 38 cm
Galerie Krinzinger Contact Gallery
truth in the hand, fact in the hand by Shintaro Miyake contemporary artwork painting
Shintaro Miyake truth in the hand, fact in the hand, 2011 Oil, crayon, pencil on paper
188 x 276 cm
Galerie Krinzinger Contact Gallery
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