Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

Friday, August 21st, 2015

GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it.

These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation to cliched novelties.

In recent years, the retro aesthetic of GIFs has been making big comeback. Nowadays, instead of flashing text, they often reference classic signifiers in pop culture and have become a sort of emotional shorthand, a form of emoji.

They’re now a hip way to express a gamut of feelings — excitement, annoyance, surprise . . . Name an emotion and there’s bound to be the perfect GIF for it. That’s why sites and apps such as Giphy and Nutmeg are becoming the must-have tools for when a smiley is just not enough.

They are not only being used just to express LOLs and winks, but recently GIFs have entered the realm of boda fide art. This year Japanese artist Toyoi Yuuta set Tumblr ablaze by posting a beautiful series of 8-bit GIF creations depicting sometimes melancholic, sometimes surreal scenes of life in Japan.

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Thousands of users reblogged the pieces as the designs invoked memories of the Nintendo Entertainment System and took the seemingly trite medium of GIFs to a new level.

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The artist Segawa 37 took the genre a step higher for Adobe’s GIF contest by giving a modern twist to classic works of “the floating world.” Segawa 37 humorously tweaks the time-honored woodblock prints by including things such as a spaceship swooping in and beaming up Mount Fuji or a group of kimono-clad travelers watching a shinkansen train zoom by.

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Segawa 37’s GIF set also includes pieces that rely more on aesthetics than humor, including paintings of the warm glow of lanterns in Edo’s Yoshiwara district and people watching the Sumida River fireworks.

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It seems that GIFs are beginning to get the artistic credit they deserve, and some are even making the jump from computer screens to galleries. The GIF Exhibition will be held Sept. 5-13 at Tokyo’s Tetoka and will feature a variety of works from around 10 artists. Although the pieces may be over in a flash, visitors are encouraged to slow down and take in every frame.

GIFs have gone from Internet meme to art, but where will they go next? It’s anyone’s guess.

Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

choju-giga

The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history.

Now art lovers can create their own masterpieces from the comfort of their Internet browser with the Choju-Giga Construction Kit website.

The site allows users to drag and drop a variety of ink-drawn animals and hiragana letters onto a virtual scroll to make whatever scene they choose. Some of the options include a fiddle-playing frog and a bow-wielding rabbit, giving users numerous story possibilities. The tools — enlarge, shrink, erase — are naturally depicted in hand-drawn calligraphy.

In the Q&A section of the site, the creator basically says he or she simply wanted a free way for users to create classic art. So go forth and roll your own epic scroll, one mouse-click at a time.

Takashi Murakami + Frisk = super-artsy breath

Friday, March 20th, 2015

For a limited time you’ll be able to freshen your breath by popping a piece of contemporary art into your mouth.

On March 16, Belgian confectionary Frisk launched a special collaborative line of art candy, called Frisk Neo, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The collaborator is none other than Takashi Murakami, that superfamous creator of superflat pop art.

Though Murakami’s most expensive art pieces have sold for more than $4 million, the Frisk Neo decorated in his original Kaikai Kiki characters and signature skulls cost less than ¥400.

“We basically bring a piece of art into the pockets of normal consumers,” said chief marketing officer Jan Heelinn in the Frisk Neo x Takashi Murakami official video.

Murakami likens the candies to sculptures in the promo video. Though we shouldn’t expect them to be auctioned at Sotheby’s any time soon, every tin bears the text “Designed by Murakami.”

The local buzzsphere celebrated the pop artist’s foray into breath mints with exclamations of “kawaii!” (cute) and “getto shimashita!” (I got one!).

Not only are the tins customized, Frisk went a step further by reshaping their pellet-like mints into original Murakami motifs. The Blooming Cherry mints are pink and flower-shaped and, as the name suggests, taste like sweet cherry. Pop open the Frightening Mint tin and you will see white-and-blue skulls. You might taste a hint of chilli in the mint — eccentric, like the artist himself.

Frisk Neo is supposedly available in convenience stores nationwide, but our guess it’s a hot-seller so good luck finding a tin.

A photo posted by Tomoya Yamashita (@_txmxyx_) on

Gokon matchmakers fan the passion with sporting dates

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

This year, the Japan Sumo Association and matchmaking website Konpa de Koi Plan are giving eligible singles a chance to mingle and possibly fall in love at the ongoing March sumo tournament.

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The sumokon price of admission gets you a reserved spectator box, a meal, a photo session with a former wrestler and perhaps the chance to pin down a partner for life.

The special event, called sumokon, is a portmanteau of sumo and konpa, which means “company.” It is derived from another abbreviated term — gōkon, which translates as a group blind date.

A typical gōkon usually takes place at an izakaya (pub), consisting of even-numbered male and female members. Games are sometimes played to break the ice. This scenario is popular in Japan as it takes away the pressure of meeting a date one on one. More large-scale gōkon have emerged over the years and proven to be profitable for the organizers. One example is machikon, a mixer event that involves bar hopping.

Recently, the increase in younger sumo wrestlers has attracted more female spectators — and, in turn, the matchmaking business.

On March 18, a spectator booth at the Osaka BodyMaker Colosseum will be reserved for five men and women between the ages of 20 and 45.

“We wanted to expand the field of dating,” explained Chie Goda, marketing manager at Goodwill Planning, which is helping promote Konpa de Koi Plan.

Taking note of the increase in young sumo fans, the company thought it would be interesting to see if sparks fly as heavyweights do battle on the dohyo (sumo ring)

According to Goda, Konpa de Koi have recently been focusing on supōtsu-kon, where members can view their favorite sport with their blind date.

“Last year, we did a baseball-kon and horse racing-kon,” Goda said.

Umakon participants take part in a group date at horse races.

Umakon participants take part in a group date at horse races.

To some, watching large, half-naked men tackle each other may not be the ideal romantic setting, but this unique blend of traditional culture and modern dating may be the perfect combination for single sumo fans, or, perhaps, a good icebreaker. But the men may find themselves competing for the ladies’ attention as new young wrestlers like Bana Asayama, a former bodybuilder, make their debuts this season.

The sumokon begin with lunch, followed by a photo session with a former rikishi (sumo wrestler). Members will then receive free sumo souvenirs before watching the tournament. The charge is ¥9,800 for men and ¥6,800 for women.

“Many of the sumokon members have never seen a sumo tournament before, so I’m sure they are feeling very excited,” Goda said. “I hope that the passion for sports will turn into love for someone special.”

J-blip: Morphing time for Okamoto’s ‘Tower of the Sun’

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Bandai has created toy robot versions out of virtually everything from Hello Kitty to Mickey Mouse. Now it’s morphing time for Osaka’s iconic “Tower of the Sun.”

Taro Okamoto’s “The Tower of the Sun” was created to commemorate the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka and represents Japan’s past, present and future. Okamoto was known for his promotion of peace in works such his “The Myth of Tomorrow” mural, which depicts the horrors of the atomic bombings.

So we’re not sure how Okamoto would take his reflective tower becoming a menacing robot. The figurine, which will tower over your other toys at 280 mm, has the ability to transform from a tower to its final robot version. Well, actually you have to do the transforming, but still cool, no?

“The Tower of the Sun” figurine will break out of its shell on Sept. 27 and will retail for ¥17,000.

Tokyo Designers Week 2013

Monday, October 28th, 2013

This year’s Tokyo Designers Week’s main event at Meiji Jingu-Gaien has had a bit of a makeover. As “Creative Fes,” it now includes a music venue, various food stalls and a market of hand-crafted goods. But, of course, the main focus remains design, and the event’s new Asia Awards, which includes categories for design schools, young creators and professionals, pulled in plenty of entries.

From architectural constructions to jewelry, we took a look at what the students and pros had to offer, as well as perused our old favorite — Designboom Mart. This year, we also found an extra favorite spot: the TAPAS Spanish Design for Food exhibition, which not only made us hungry for more, but proved that design can have a great sense of humor.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Design Week

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Today, the Isetan Department in Shinjuku launches its Designers Week product fair “Hand Made By For Me,” featuring numerous lifestyle brands across various floors of the Isetan main building. The fair runs till Nov. 5 and with all items also available to purchase, it could be a good opportunity to get a little Christmas shopping in early.

We took a sneak peak last night and selected some of our favorite Japanese designs.

Japan by the numbers (8.9.13)

Friday, August 9th, 2013

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