We know that Takuya Kimura of SMAP is a superstar, but who knew that just one portrait drawn of him by Hiro Sugiyama would spark an illustrious career of one of the most respected artists in Japan today?
This may be late news to some, but I was happily surprised with a copy of this book in the mail. Sugiyama is the founder and leader of art unit Enlightenment which celebrated 15 years since its inception this year. The group was a mainstay on the cool club and music scene as THE best VJs in Japan during the noughts, experimenting with new digital graphic techniques and even inventing some along the way (when Enlightenment was in charge of visuals, I often found myself more entranced by the graphics than the DJ). One of those techniques was called TRACE and Sugiyama has used it to become a well-known portrait artist, like a Warholian digital maestro. Those include Thom Yorke of Radiohead and former Prime Minister Hatayama’s wife Miyuki (the one who said she was from outer space).
To commemorate the anniversary, a book called ELM15 has been published, featuring 40 hand-selected works from about 1,400. My favorite pieces are the ones in which fine art has been fused with pop-culture. These seem to speak more than the digital graphic design pieces which were painstakingly made when Enlightenment was founded, but can be churned out with just an iPhone app today. The series of women wearing ethnic armor in a digital oil-painting style are also really great.
Quite a number of noted artists are “graduates” of Enlightenment, including Akiyoshi Mishima now with fashion brand FUGAHUM and Tomoyuki Yonezu. Here’s to 15 more years.
Asst edit: Karen Shimada