I have been intrigued by public places, especially train stations in Tokyo that are filled with people just passing through. Everyone loses their identity and becomes just another face in a crowd. To some people it may feel lonely if overwhelmed by the number of strangers, but to others it may feel relaxing/liberated to be anonymous. What people feel in such a situation depends on their experience, personality, and mental state. Therefore, a public place serves as a way to reconsider one’s identity by in turn losing it. Under such conditions I somehow start looking at myself objectively as I look at others in a crowd, and then a question arises: who am I? This is the question I pose to viewers through my artwork.
Use of blue:
In order to replicate the situation where objectivity toward the self arises in mind, I use blue as a filter to look at an artwork itself through. Blue is a unique color that not only represents negative feelings such as sadness or depression, but also is soothing and creates a relaxing atmosphere. Impressions that viewers get from the color depend on their mental state as well as on how they relate their perception of colors and their own memories to what is depicted. Also, blue separates artwork itself from the places depicted, hiding the specificity so that anyone can relate to the work. Therefore, blue enhances viewers’ objectivity toward a painting itself as well as toward what they perceive. By depicting places that bring a question of identity in a color which could be perceived in various ways, I leave the interpretation of artwork totally open to each viewer. They may think about what they have felt and its reason through personally communicating with their own memories.
Train station series / Negative spaces:
In this series, I remove anything that help specify the trains/stations depicted in each artwork, such as logos and texts. I leave only the minimum amount of elements that make the background look just any train or station, so that anyone can relate to artwork as somewhere they might have been. In my early works, I used to depict a crowd of people as armless, identical silhouettes in order to exaggerate anonymity of a crowd and to represent lack/unnecessity of communication. In the following series, I depicted people as a negative space based on the idea that losing identity by merging into a crowd means being a negative space to others. At the same time, a negative space is somewhere anyone could belong to while staying anonymous. I put emphasis on the loss of identity in a crowd and tried to reinforce viewers’ questioning toward themselves: “Who am I?” or “Where do I belong to?”
This series is about a lonely girl’s search for a place to be. As in the train station series, I have been trying to replicate something everyone may have experienced: a sense of isolation in a group, objectivity toward the self, and search of identity. The original work was a series of eight blue paintings made in 2004 which first shows an adolescent girl in the dark holding an umbrella that is the only thing she has. She once throws the umbrella away but comes back to it. The blue background gradually gets lighter and indicates that she finds a new dimension of the umbrella as she takes a distance from it. In the end, another person appears and picks up the umbrella for her.
All of my works with the girl character are developed from this story and represent her question/search of identity. Since the idea of this series originally came from my personal memories from high school days, most works involve isolation in a group, self-consciousness or body image that are major concerns among teenagers. Most works contrast differences/distances between an individual and a group. In order to depict a group of something, I mainly use fish, plants, and candies. She does not express any emotion. She stays neutral so as to leave the interpretation of artwork open to each viewer, depending on how they read it through a blue filter.
Combination of two series:
Since the two series of works, the train station series and the umbrella series, both represent a question of identity, I thought they could be combined into one. Still using blue as a filter, I use the items/figures from the umbrella series as a representation of a crowd. Whereas the train station series involves a viewer as one of a crowd without depicting any specific character, the umbrella series uses the girl as someone that viewers may relate to. I keep this role of the girl and use her as a starting point for interpretation. She is placed just for representing differences between one and the others.
As I have been using blue in my works as a filter, I am interested in how a filter influences the perception of things. Recently, many are eager to control the view/perception of themselves by posting nice-looking photos on social networking services. They utilize filters to make things photogenic. Also, they modify colors and the contrast of the photos to even hide/mask things they don’t want to show.
I assume that they are pursuing their identity by seeking positive reactions and approval from others. This is largely because of conformity which is considered to be important in Japan. People want to be the same as each other not to stand out in a bad way. People, especially teenagers in school have a fear of being/looking lonely. They try to belong to a group just not to stand out. This is more apparent online and people are obsessed with social networking; they have to stay connected not to be isolated or “unfriended.” By modifying photos of ordinary scenes/landscape and pretending as if they are living a satisfying life, they seem to be trying to get attention or to look worth being friends with. Whereas people merge into a crowd in real public places by removing their identity, they try to be one of a crowd online by pursuing/creating their identity. I consider the use of filters on SNS to be their ways of searching identity thus can be related to my past works, especially the umbrella series.
While representing a search of identity by contrasting an individual to others as in the umbrella series, I take elements from the train station series and adopt a new use of filters in this series. I use dots/patterns to hide/mask unnecessary things in the background or things that can be ignored. As for this usage of dots/patterns, I was inspired both by SNS and by screen tones that are widely used in comics which I grew up with. These dots are used not only to decorate background or to depict shadows, but also to omit details in order to drag attention to what should be focused on. Also, I have shifted the range of blue as an experiment to exaggerate color saturation and make works more pop looking, wondering if this would change the interpretation of my works. Through combining two of my series, I pose the same question of identity, leaving the interpretation of works open to each viewer.