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Japanese artist Hikari Shimoda celebrates ten years of work with new exhibit

One of the most widely recognised names in contemporary art in Japan, Hikari Shimoda features 40 new and old works in her ongoing show.

Since turning into a full-time artist in 2008, Shimoda has mesmerised and shocked audiences both locally and internationally with colourful portraits of starry-eyed children whose throats have been slit and faces have been bruised.

It’s with these stunning yet disturbing images that the Japanese creative has been raising awareness for issues that plague modern society.

Now in the 10th year of her career, she’s celebrating with an exhibit called The Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration.

Currently ongoing until August 26, the show is being held at the Asahi Art Museum in Nagano. Attendees will find pieces old and new, showing Shimoda’s artistic and narrative development in the last decade.

“It’s been ten years since I chose my life as an artist,” she said. “I started creating art to express the loneliness and despair I was feeling. Now my brushes paint human beings as a whole existence, beyond distinctions, such as race and gender. I also focus on creating work which reflects human society and its future.”

We recently caught up with Shimoda to know more about her and her work. Take a look:

Please tell us more about yourself. How did you get into art?

“My name is Hikari Shimoda and I am a contemporary artist living in the Nagano prefecture of Japan. I was born here in 1984. My parents liked art, so growing up I had a lot of opportunities to see puppetry, going to museums from a young age, reading picture books, etc. When I was in high school, I would study contemporary art magazines and learned about the world of art, and that it gives us the freedom to express ourselves. Since that time, I have fallen in love with it.”

What specifically about manga and anime inspired your work? And how would you describe your style/technique?

“There are so many things that inspire me. I appreciate sharing thoughts and ideas and manga has a tradition of telling stories. It’s sort of my hobby to analyze how manga tells a story. I’m very interested in the philosophy of creation and using cartoons or anime as a form of my expression. As an artist, it’s important for me to immerse myself and live in expression.

“I would describe my style like a cartoon animated picture. My generation grew up with cartoons and animation, and I was drawing cartoons long before I was painting. So, it comes really naturally to me to express myself this way.

“Although I am creating works of art that are based on the theme of modern society, for young people, my intuition is to ‘draw problems’ in a cartoon-like image, rather than a more ‘academic’ style. I think young people, in particular, understand my work as a result of this.”

You’re celebrating 10 years of work. How much has changed since you started? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

“At the beginning of my career I honestly didn’t know much about art at all and I was having trouble finding the meaning in my art. At that time, I thought that art was about facing one’s inner self and from there, what I wanted to do was convey my own thoughts through my work and share it. My influence came from within.

“It has changed and I now express feelings not only inside myself but outside of myself, like in society. I think about how art is a part of the world and the role of the artist.

“When I was studying illustration, my teacher told me to ‘create your own worldview’. Understanding my identity became a catalyst to be aware of ‘things that are merely for me’; the landscape around me, my emotions. Without that good advice, my work probably wouldn’t look as it does today.”

#TGIF! Just one more day until the opening of my solo show opens at @coreyhelfordgallery!! 🙈🙈 I just posted a preview on my blog. Link in bio. ☝️ One of the pieces I posted is my new painting "Neo Raigou-zu". The word “raigou” means the coming of Amida Buddha to welcome the spirits of the dead to heaven. In my version of raigou-zu, a magical girl, who acts as a "savior" in my work, takes the position of Buddha and a rock band follows her. Those are the raigou-zu of the modern world I paint. If you live in #LA, please come out to my opening tomorrow 7-11pm and say hi! 😊 To get on the list to receive the collector’s preview, please contact the gallery at sherri@coreyhelfordgallery.com or you can dm me. 💗

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What should we expect to see at your exhibition, The Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration?

“From my earliest work, even as an immature artist, I was always trying to shape my identity through art. At some point in my career, I started trying to connect with something outside of myself and I began to depict themes of modernity more and more. I think someone visiting the exhibition can see this flow of my work from then until 2018.

The Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration is a work that is trying to capture the world in a birds-eye-view. The act of birth brings hope and joy, but being born has no impression on us and we have no conscious thought of it. I thought, what an interesting idea to depict the phenomenon of birth.

“In modern times, there are people living a painful life due to circumstances beyond their control, a catastrophe. The original image it is based upon, The Creation of Adam, is generally thought to depict the excerpt ‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him’. My character is decidedly born by the touch of another who shall determine his way of life, filled with hope and meaning.”

I just posted a preview of my museum solo show opening on Saturday!! 😍👏👏 Link in bio! ✌️ This exhibition will be the 10th anniversary of my work. It will be displaying 40 new and old works as well as looking back at what I have done over the years. Also, the venue will be in Asahi village which is my birthplace. I named my show after my painting "Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration" and it is the largest, most detailed work I have ever created. The entire piece is over 10 feet long and separated into 3 panels. I wanted to create a summation of my work’s theme about life and death, featuring my recurring characters who don't have any official name, but I have personally nicknamed them as "Ami chan" and "Akuma kun". Ami is the magical girl heroine of my work based on the Amitābha a celestial buddha, and Akuma is a little boy hero who sometimes dresses as a bear. The composition is inspired by the famous "The Creation of Adam" fresco by Michelangelo. To receive the collector's preview, please email me at info@hikarishimoda.com. More info about the show is on my blog at HikariShimoda.com! 👍💗💕❤️ #hikarishimoda #art #painting #japan #anime #manga #kawaii

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Is there a message that your art is trying to tell its audience?

“My root theme has become this feeling that human beings will someday perish by the hands of mankind, however, I try not to give any answers in my work. By presenting my viewpoint, I think it is possible to inspire thinking in the viewer and I hope that new ideas can be born from looking at my work.”

Lastly, what’s next in the next 10 years of your career?

“As my artist’s goal is to communicate with people all over the world, I would like to visit more places and create more art so that people around the world can see it. In addition, I want to try making works in formats other than painting because the process is a bit slow-moving.”

You can learn more about Hikari Shimoda’s exhibit, The Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration, here.

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