10 Years of Hikari Shimoda's Dystopian Children

Jul 07, 2018 - Aug 26, 2018Asahi Art Musem of Nagano, Japan, Nagano, Japan

Hikari Shimoda, a Japanese illustrator and painter that we're featured a number of times on, is the subject of a mid-career survey at the Asahi Art Museum in Nagano, Japan for the month of July and part of August. Shimoda has rapidly risen in the New Contemporary movement, and her signature children characters can be found throughout the world. Her masterful illustrative style and striking imagery often depict macabre images of children, in bright hues that accentuate their disturbingly vacant stares. The pieces emphasize the dystopian nature of our world, contrasting innocence and violence to underscore feelings of loneliness and despair. 

Now that she's been a professional artist for over 10 years, this landmark exhibit aims to bring the works together in her hometown to illustrate larger themes in her work, and explore the past, present, and future of both her work and the world it depicts.

“It’s been ten years since I chose my life as an artist. 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,” Shimoda shares.

The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake changed the face of her work and her style underwent a visible transformation, which viewers can appreciate side-by-side with new works. Today, the artist recognizes sources of despair in different forms. On what inspires her, Shimoda shares: “Today we’re living in a world that is full of difficulties; wars, starvation, and poverty are real problems and there are many people suffering from mental disorders and social unrest not visible to others.”

“Thanks to the internet, everyone has easy access to declare opinions. However, this just brings about frequent conflict and friction from differing opinions and disagreements. We are always under pressure of being criticized or blamed for what we are sharing…those who attack have power, and the suppressed have a new way to raise their own voices. They are ‘invisible’ people in the world.”

Shimoda arrived onto the international scene in 2014 with her U.S. exhibition “Fantastic Planet, Goodbye Man,” introducing her ongoing series entitled “Children of This Planet” and “Whereabouts of God,” which are highlighted throughout the exhibit. Themes presented in those works are cultivated and arranged into the exhibit’s centerpiece, entitled “The Catastrophe of Death and Regeneration," a highly detailed collage mural that took several months to complete.

Her striking portraits of big-eyed children with a bruised complexion and sparkling slit throats have been described as macabre, even grotesque, masked with “happy” colors. Collages of cute stickers and glitter are added for sparkle effect. These roughed up heroes and heroines are the only hope for salvation of the dying modern landscape they inhabit, a netherworld bursting with problems as humanity struggles to cope with its imminent demise.

The exhibit is being hosted by Shimoda’s hometown museum, the Asahi Art Museum in Nagano, located in Japan’s beautiful countryside which has provided her with inspiration from the start. “It’s a place where I can think deeply and feel a quiet loneliness,” she explains. “I am still portraying feelings of loneliness and despair. We should put our eyes on every single piece of this world, share it and exchange opinions…this might prevent us from destruction and help us to make an important step forward for humanity.”