Most people in the New Contemporary art scene are familiar with Naoto Hattori, (the cover artist of beautiful.bizarre #012), and his highly imaginative and intricate surrealistic paintings. He is one of those artists whose works you can identify in a flash. His characteristic microscopic and precise brushstrokes – often mistaken as digital textures – are like no other. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing him about his works, his sources of inspirations, and his upcoming exhibitions. The original interview is conducted in Japanese; and, for the sake of clarity, I decided to employ a sense-for-sense translation method instead of a word-for-word one.



Opening Reception:
Saturday, April 9, 2016 | 5 – 7 PM

Exhibition Dates:
April 4 – April 23, 2016


Vanilla Gallery

8-10-7 Ginza Chuo-ku,
Tokyo, JAPAN

(Above) “Cosmic Consciousness” (2015), acrylic on board, 5.5″ x 7.1″

What is art to you?

Art has no limit, no rule, and no discrimination of superiority. As a result, art enables people to freely express themselves. When I paint on a blank canvas, I feel like a creator, a god. (Laugh). By gradually giving lives to creatures in a space where no one else exists, I create my own world. Besides painting, in my day-to-day life, I do mundane jobs such as bookkeeping and various administrative works. But, art is a world where I can – incredibly – freely express everything and anything.


アートは制限、規則や優越なく自己を自由に表現できるから、真っ白なキャンバスの前では自分がの創造主になった気分 で制作をしてる感じです(笑)。 誰もいなく何もない世界に少しずつ生命を与えて自分 のワールドを創造していく感じです。
現実に戻ると仕事としてやる上での経理やマネージメントなどの雑務がありますが、それでもアートは自分にとって、ありえないほ ど自由に自分を表現出来る世界です。

(Above) “Cosmic Mind” (2015), acrylic on board, 6.3″ x 9″

How did you come up with your current style?

Even though I have a better painting technique than I used to have when I was a child, I still paint whatever image that floats into my head. So, actually, my painting style has never changed. The difference is that now with my improved techniques, I can paint them more clearly. (See the comparison image below)


技術が伴って絵で表現できる世界は広がってきたけれど、基本的には頭の中に浮かびあげたイメージをそのまま描くスタイルは幼少期から変わってないです。(添付イメージ 参照)

Among all of your works, which three paintings mean the most to you? And why?

When I looked at my previous works, I realized that all of them are precious to me. None of them is superior to the others. I can’t choose just three out of a hundred paintings I created while I was studying in New York. I’m keeping all of those paintings and have no intention of selling them.

自分の作品から3つ最も意味深いものを選ぶとしたらどれですか?また選んだ理由 を教えて下さい。(絵の写真とタイトルも送って下さい)

改めて今までに描いた絵を見返してもおそらく優越がつけれないと思います。3つというよりニューヨークで学生時代に制作した作品100点以上 は売らずに大事に保管しています。

(Above) “Untitled” (1997), acrylic on board, 9.3″ x 12.3″

(Above) “Stream” (2001), acrylic on canvas, 18″ x 24″

(Above) “Untitled” (1999), acrylic on board, 13.3″ x 18.3″

You’ve been creating numerous paintings in short spans of time. How long does it take you to finish a painting?

If it’s a postcard-sized painting, I can finish it in a day. But, if it’s a large-sized painting, I usually finish it in one or two weeks. If I choose to use larger brushes, I can create a large-sized painting in one day. But, I prefer to paint with fine-tipped brushes (the kind that can go through a hole in a sewing needle) to paint the details as I zone everything out and focus on my works. On weekdays, I usually paint from 5 am until night. But, on weekends, I spend my time doing whatever I’d like to do.

In one year, I create approximately 200 new paintings.

多くの作品を短期間で描かれていますが、ひとつの作品を完成させるのにどれくら い掛かりますか?

ポストカードくらいのものだと1日で大きいものは1-2週間くらいです。筆を大きくすれば大きな絵も1日で描けますが、自分的には針の穴を通 すくらいの細い筆先で神経を集中させて細かく書くのが好きです。平日は朝5時から夜まで絵を描いて、週末は好きなことをする感じです。大体年 間200点くらい描いてます。

(Above) The work-in-progress image of “Enlightenment” (2015), acrylic on board, 12″ x 12″

Where do you get your inspiration? Are there any artists that influence you?

Although my works are based on my own imagination, I admit I constantly get some inspiration from other people. Although many contemporary artists are able to paint photo-realistic paintings and emulate computer graphics, I’m more impressed by the painters who lived a few hundred years ago and tried their best to paint as realistically as they can even though cameras and modern, more-sophisticated painting techniques had not been invented just yet. The more I look at their works, the more I can sense their efforts and passions. When I saw their works in The Louvre, I could sense the beauty, the power, the agony, the tenacity, and the dynamic of their works. That’s when I realize what true art is.

If I’m to name one of my favorite artists, the first name that comes to mind is Jan van Eyck. Above everything else, what’s so amazing about his work is the amount of intricate details you can see on every single part of his paintings. Though his compositions and color selections are amazing, what’s most impressive about the artist is the fact that you can feel the atmosphere/ambience of the painting . . . The soft incoming lights that illuminate the subject’s’ skin, the texture of their clothes, the humidity of the room… he can communicate all of those things through his paintings. It’s as if the people he painted are breathing and might blink at any moment’s notice. Though his paintings don’t look like photographs, and the perspective of some of his paintings are incorrect, but – to me – his paintings are a lot more lifelike than photographs.

Whenever I come up with an idea of what to paint next, I also find it important to consider the kind of ambience I should portray.

インスピレーションはどこから得ていますか?特にインスピレーションを受けた アーティストはいますか?

自然体で絵を描いているつもりでもインスピレーションは常に受けていますね。現代画家の写真やCGを元に描くスーパーリアルの模写画家の技術も凄いですが、カメラや技法などのな い時代に写実的な絵画を追求していた画家たちの努力は凄まじいものを感じます。作品を見れば見るほど努力と熱意を感れる工夫が発見できま す。 ルーブル美術館などで実際にみた作品には美しさと力強さのなかに執念や苦悩みたいなものまでも感じさせる躍動感があってこれが本当に アートと呼べるものなんだと認識しましたね。

自分が好きな画家を挙げるとしたらまず最初に出てくるのはJan Van Eyckですね。とにかく描いた絵のすべての細部表現が凄い!構図や色彩構成も凄いけれど、この画家の作品の凄いところは作品の中に空気を感じるところで すね。差し込む柔らかい光の元にいる人物の皮膚の温度や着ている服や部屋の湿度まで伝わってくる。絵画の中の人物が瞬きをして呼吸している。 写真ほどリアルではなく遠近法のミスもあるのに写真よりリアルに感じさせる。


(Above) “Untamed Thoughts 03” (2015), acrylic on board, 5.5″ x 7.1″

What’s your typical day like?

When I wake up and drink my morning coffee, I have zero ideas on what I will paint after I return from dog walking. But once I enter my studio, it usually takes me around 30 seconds to come up with a raw sketch of what I will paint next. After that, I sketch the final details on a board. In the future, I’d like to spend more time on some of my works. Although, I already have some ideas on what to create, I don’t think it’s the right time for me to paint my masterpieces yet.

絵を描く時に どのようなプロセスを取りますか?

自分でも朝起きてコーヒーを飲んでいるときはその日何を描くのか全く決めていなくて、犬の散歩をして帰って来て仕事部屋に入った瞬間に描き始 めるのがほぼ毎日のルーティーン。
アイディアは30秒くらいで自分が分かるくらいのラフスケッチで描くことがほとんど。最終的に描くボードにはしっかりした下書きをして進めて いきます。


(Above) “ShroomTiger” (2015), acrylic on board, 3″ x 4″

What’s the most important part of your work?

Expressing things as freely as I used to when I was a child.



How do you describe your current style?
Ummm… What, huh? Twisted Pop Surrealism?

何だろう。。Twisted Pop Surrealism??

(Above) “Walking“, acrylic on board, 6.1″ x 7.7”

(Above) A work-in-progress image of “Peek 050” (2015), acrylic on board, 2.3″ x 3″

What do you think are the most important qualities an artist should have?

The ability to keep on going and not be lazy, to treasure the things nobody one else can express or present, to establish one’s owns style and stick to it (instead of getting swayed or influenced by what other artists are doing), and to enjoy the process.

アーティスト にとって最も重要なクオリティーとは何でしょうか?

基本は続けること。 楽をしないこと。自分にしかできない表現を一番大事にして、流されないスタイルを確立させること。楽しむこと。

(Above) “Evanescent Memory” (2014), acrylic on board, 5.1″ x 7.1″

Other than the upcoming beautiful.bizarre curated group exhibition at Vanilla Gallery, what other solo or group exhibition are you going to participate in this year?

Last year, aside from my solo exhibition, I also participated in 20 group exhibitions. But it was MUCH too hectic. So, this year, I will only participate in 10 group exhibitions while preparing for my next solo exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery in 2017.

ビューティフル・ビザーによって取り仕切られたヴァニラ画廊の展示会以外に、個展もしくはグループ個展に近々参加する 予定はありますか?

去年は個展以外にグループ展を20回も参加して忙しすぎたので今年はあと10回くらいに落ち着かせて2017年のCorey Helford Galleryの個展のための準備を始める予定です。

(Above) A work-in-progress image of “Recollection 038” (2016), acrylic on board, 6″ x 6″

(Above) “Recollection 038” (2016), acrylic on board, 6″ x 6″
This artwork is going to be on view at the beautiful.bizarre curated International Group Exhibition
『aestheticism~耽美~』 – at Vanilla Gallery

(Above) A work-in-progress image of “Enlightened” (2016), acrylic on board, 6.4″ x 9″
The finished painting will also be on view at the beautiful.bizarre curated International Group Exhibition
『aestheticism~耽美~』 – at Vanilla Gallery

(Above) “Inspiration“, acrylic on board, 8″ x 10”

(Above) “Yoda” (2014), acrylic on board, 8″ x 10″

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