Japan is one of the most fascinating civilization in the world, with an important place bestowed upon arts. The traditions and History of this country have reached our modern world thanks to the ukiyo-e, watercolor prints and drawings illustrating the codes of the samurais and geisha, for example. These ukiyo-e, meaning “images of the floating world” were often erotic and violent with specific types of illustrations called shunga. Eroticism and gore were not controlled by religion and thus they have become more accepted in contemporary Japan. But the refinement of traditional and feudal Japan is seriously clashing with our contemporary world. Consumerism, high-tech, violence, perversion, coming from both Western world and contemporary Japanese culture, are diluting the identity of Japanese youth.
Shohei Otomo is a young Japanese artist discussing this issue. Born in 1980, this punk aficionado is the son of manga and animation movies illustrator Katsuhiro Otomo. But he is distancing himself from the work of his father with ballpoint pen illustrations that are visually striking and provocative. Otomo mixes references to ukiyo-e and the Western clichés of Japan, with tattooed yakuza and sexy schoolgirls, with borrowings to our dark, violent and explicit mainstream culture. He spares nobody. Geishas indulge in bondage while serious businessmen are drunk and fighting in the Streets of Tokyo. Shohei Otomo’s style is direct, powerful and graphic, with only vibrant addition of red color. Inside the eye-catching illustrations, tattoos are scenes inside the scenes, adding dark humor, punk references and political criticisms. Shocking, fascinating, thought-provoking, and indeed gorgeous, the art of Shohei Otomo pushes the limits of contemporary art.