Korehiko Hino’s paintings are filled with strange, doll-like people, their proportions odd, their facial expressions blank. The effect is eerie, to make an understatement, and he often frames the subjects with flowers or jewels.

When I met Hino, I expected to see the familiar face that echoes through all his work, but the images he paints are unrecognizable distortions of him. He sat with me and discussed the “nothingness” of his work over coffee in a busy Tokyo café.

Rachel Cassandra: Can we talk about the objects represented in your work: flowers, mannequins, wigs, jewels, meat, dolls, and whether those have specific significance or whether the interest is aesthetic.
Korehiko Hino: When I choose the motif, I just instinctly think it would be nice and choose. But then, thinking back, it turns out that most of the time the objects are vacant or fake. I paint humans, but they really look like dolls. They have no facial expression, no feelings. When I paint fake motifs, that also expresses or enhances the fakeness of the human being. Painting the human being and the mannequin at the same time, the viewers lose which is real and which is not real. They're confused.

Can you elaborate more on the themes of vacant and fake? Why this is the center of all your work?
I wanted to erase the story behind the painting. I want to erase the situation of the models—who that person is, the gender of the models, or their age. I want the viewer to simply focus on shapes or colors, simple things of which the painting consists. If I paint the story, the viewer will take the story directly. Like if the models are smiling, the viewer is going to take that the models are smiling and the painting seems like it's finished.

Like erasing the emotional information which is what viewers are looking for from other people?
Yes. That's right.

I'm curious about your process with the models. Do you work from models or photographs or the mirror?
I model myself. I put on wigs and make a pose, then photograph myself and then paint looking at the photo.

Why do you choose to model for all of your paintings?
I wanted to paint nobody. Then who can be the nobody? It can be myself. If I paint somebody, it's going to be somebody. If I paint me, I can't see myself in three dimensions, only in a reflection. It's only the imagination of myself in three dimensions, so it's also fake. It can be the nobody. When I take a photograph by myself, I make a pose for some seconds. I feel that that moment is similar to the situation of death or a mannequin—being nothing for some seconds.

Because it's a finite representation? What makes it close to death?
Because it's static. Maybe not death, but similar to the mannequin state. It's not a natural pose, but an intentional one. if someone makes a pose by leaning their elbow on the table, it tells a story that they are having a coffee and having a relaxing time. But when I choose the pose, I think about the composition only. I want to focus on the shape of the human being. I think "I'm going to make a pose." That unnatural state is quite important for me.

In your choice to distort proportions for the painting, facial proportion, sometimes body proportion, what is the intention?
I'm happy because—not only for the eyes—but you noticed the proportion of the body is also a bit awkward. The intention is to mix the information of the model again, like sex or age or background. I want to mix up those things, making no meaning or no story. I try to make the proportion of the models off-set, a little bit off.

You've said your trip to India was influential to your style. Does that still feel true?
I'd been painting the human beings, but after visiting India, I painted objects that are already dead. In India, I saw a goat, the dead goat and wanted to paint it. After India, my work became more glittering and flashy, like objects I’d seen all around there. Before going to India I tried to make paintings as simple as possible to erase the story. But there I saw lots of images like Gods or alters that were glittering. I started to make those things in my paintings.

What are you working on now?
I'm now making sculptures, three dimensional. I've been working in clay, I'm still in the experimental process. In making three dimensional work, I can't see myself as three dimensional, so it's a bit irritating. That frustration is feeling like I'm making something fake.

When will the series be finished?
Next year in the spring.

I'm so curious to see it.

Translated from Japanese by Mifuyu Ishimizu, director of SNOW Contemporary.