Ob paintings blur the lines between the inner self and the real self
In the eyes of Westerners, the work of the Japanese painter ob could immediately invite comparison with characters from anime or manga, with their revealing shapes and enlarged features. But for ob, who has made a name for herself in online communities specializing in sharing this type of work, style is more of a way for her to connect with other artists who work in a similar style. For his exhibition “Your, My, Story”, which opened last month in Perrotin New York, ob produced nine large-scale paintings featuring dreamy landscapes depicting both inner and virtual life of ob. For Listening perfume two figures stand almost apocalyptically alone among the skyscrapers, while in Access a waif-like figure pulls his hand through a fountain. It is through these fragile and fuzzy scenes that we work through the implications of subjects such as online life, childhood and folklore.
Putting raw aesthetics aside, ob’s work speaks of the convergence of the virtual world and the physical world that is responsible for our unbalanced political landscape and our increasingly isolated lives. As ob herself explains in the interview, the subject matter of the works is drawn from a variety of experiences both virtual and real, from paintings set in the world of anime shows to characters that represent scenes from the life of ob. For ob and a similar generation who grew up in the early 2000s, video games, social media, and physical reality are blended into an indistinguishable group.
It’s a series that was born and merged around specific communities that ob lived in most of his life, the ones that produced a similar aesthetic, doing ob’s work is a kind of way out of it. a system. Called the ‘SNS (Generation of Social Networking Services) Generation,’ ob and these other artists his age with similar interests frequented online communities such as pixiv, where other artists would show and share their work with each other. others. It was on pixiv, that she organized her first very influential group show in 2010, entitled “wassyoi”, which is a Japanese word meaning encouragement. Eventually, ob’s work caught the attention of Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Studio, a studio she continues to work in.
On the occasion of his show at Perrotin, I spoke with ob about early childhood, Japan, and the implications of the SNS generation.
What were your inspirations for your show at Perrotin New York?
ob: I have been largely inspired by situations that force introspection, such as disconnecting from direct connection with others because of Covid-19. Stories can be a powerful tool in helping us move forward as they help us come to terms with difficult situations and become a filter for our mind to alleviate fear. The title of the exhibition âYour, My, Storyâ evokes the individual stories of you, me and many others. I would be grateful if you could find a story in the exhibit that helps you face reality.
To what extent does nostalgia, melancholy or adolescence play out in these works? They are often behind these kinds of dreamlike or milky filters.
“The Milky Filter” creates a state of uncertainty in my paintings, oscillating between the real world and the inner world, as if the characters in the painting are oscillating between childhood and adulthood. When I paint, memories of the past come back to me automatically, like in a dream or meditation, but at the same time I aim to create a completed image that can only be seen in the future. Therefore, I experience a mixture of past, present and future in my daily life. Nostalgia, melancholy and adolescence; these emotional fluctuations which travel in time form the basis of my paintings.
Do the characters have minimal mouths for a reason or is that stylistic?
I have the impression that if a character has an expression, it makes the painting more assertive and leaves less room for interpretation, so obviously I tend not to draw a mouth. I don’t limit the details of the story in order to create a rich narrative through the memories and ideas of the viewer. The mouth is a part of the body where the awareness of speaking flows, but I painted the eyes as if they were a gateway to the inner world. Sometimes I feel like the large pupils of the eyes are like the moon or a tunnel, symbolizing death and rebirth.
Are these self-portraits in some way?
I have the impression that the characters in my paintings are vessels, like puppets, which reflect the viewer’s imagination. It is neither me nor a self-portrait, although it reflects my own experience.
How do you see the “girl?” Â»Is this an important topic for you?
It is an important subject if it is in childhood. The stage of psychological development of the child influences my artistic work. Children grow up taking important milestones, but even as we age we sometimes have to revisit unresolved childhood issues. It brought me to the idea that being older isn’t the only way to be an adult. Also, when it comes to the character I’m drawing, I don’t see her as a human girl, but rather an inhuman being from fairy tales and myths.
Do you think the idea of ââchildhood in Japan is very specific and different from the idea of ââchildhood here in America?
In Japan, the line between child and adult is ambiguous. Instead of being trained to debate and assert ourselves as in Western education, we are trained to be cooperative. I feel like without independence it’s easier to lose purpose in life.
Do Perrotin’s works take place in a specific âplaceâ or âframeâ?
My painting images are formed by a combination of all kinds of images, from scenes from movies and anime to my own photographs and past paintings.
How is your work connected to the manga? Do you create characters, the same way people create them for manga?
Basically, we create characters to guide the interpretation of the paintings. Painting is a static medium, but I often want to incorporate the language of moving pictures from manga, anime, and movies into my paintings.
Do you think manga, anime, and similar types of illustrations are used as a means of communication with other people? And this influences the appearance of the work and how it is often people who represent themselves in various forms. I am thinking of the number of forums or message boards organized around people sharing their work. Which is a rare experience in the physical world.
The visual arts are used as a communication tool in Japan, both online and offline. The Comic Book Market (known as Comiket) is the largest event held at the International Exhibition Center in Japan, and it can best be described as a festival. In the fine arts, the trend is slightly different. There are alternative spaces everywhere. There are also artist-run spaces, and they are active as studios and galleries.
Did you start your practice by posting work on similar communities, like pixiv? Can you tell me about this experience?
When I started to paint in earnest in 2006, I featured my paintings on my personal website and blog. It was a small community where only my friends at school and on the internet saw, it was fun too. Afterwards, when I started posting on Pixiv, it widened my world because a lot of people could see my works.
I went to an art high school but in Japanese schools illustrative paintings are often commented negatively by teachers. I organized an exhibition with my friend whom I met on pixiv, which was a big trigger for me to become an artist. If this had not happened and I had always wanted to paint with an illustrative expression, I would have been alone.
These spaces seem interesting because they are at the same time intimate, personal, but also capable of being seen by several people simultaneously. How do you think posting your work on these forums influences the work?
It was interesting to see the use of hashtags to describe the style of the paintings. For example, with the hashtag “rain”, there would be photos of rain. If you attract a lot of rain, you can be influential in this hashtag. It makes us reflect on our own originality.
In my case, when I searched with the hashtags “painting” and “art”, I was able to find illustrative paintings. It was encouraging for me to know that I was not alone when I was establishing my style.
Nowadays Instagram and Twitter are more influential than pixiv, for these SNS the hashtag search results are huge because they include more than illustrations. It has become more accessible for our works of art to be found by many people, but it is also more difficult to use keywords to find the exact information we are looking for.
Do you have any idea where you would like to take your work? And after?
I would like to paint a view similar to children’s literature, depicting an encounter with children’s curiosity. I would like to continue to reflect on the path of the human being through the painting of characters who oscillate between adulthood and childhood.