Sweet Nightmares: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori

Kazuhiro Hori is known for his surrealistic paintings of young Japanese girls in their school uniform, surrounded – and, sometimes, trapped – by sweets and toys: the things they are supposed to love. Some of us would never have guessed that this is not the only theme the artist has explored through his works. In anticipation of his participation in the upcoming beautiful.bizarre curated exhibition Bitter | Sweet at 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace (Gold Coast, Australia), opening 18 March 2017, we’d like to share a few things we’ve learned about him through our exclusive interview.

堀一浩は若い制服を着た日本人女子がお菓子や玩具に(それらは彼女たちが好きな物ではあるが)囲まれたり、時として捕らわれていたりするシーンをシューレアリスティックに描く事で有名である。ある人たちはこのテーマ以外の作品作りに彼が取り組んでいることを知らないであろう。2017年3月18日に公開されるビューティフルビザー監修の展示会、ビター | スイート、19カレンコンテンポラリーアートスペース(ゴールドコースト、オーストラリア)に彼が参加するにあたり私たちはいくつかの彼の考えを独占インタビューした。

“Prey”, 2016
Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

An Excerpt of Kazuhiro Hori’s Artist Statement for ‘Bitter | Sweet’:

“Japanese Junior High and High School Girls – recognizable by their school uniform – are living a dazzling and radiant existence. Surrounded by fashion, music, cute things, and sweet confections they like; they smile together and spend their time with their friends. But, at the same time, their minds are filled with anxiety, and their hearts are held down by dark thoughts and feelings. They study the things they might never find useful in the future, they want to belong in a clique, they don’t want to be outcasts, and they want to maintain their relationships with their peers. They are anxious about the things that await them in the future when they finally enter “the real world”. They feel uncertain, and they sense a vague kind of anxiety about their future. That is the bitter and sweet circumstances of their lives.”



“Strawberry”, 2016
Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

To enquire about either work above, or if you wish to receive the collectors preview for ‘Bitter | Sweet’ please contact Gallery Director, Terri Lew


How do you feel about exhibiting your work in Australia for the first time?

I know nothing about the Australian art scene. Since the theme of my work is not universal, I’m looking forward to find out how they’ll respond to my work. Also, I’d like to know what kind of impression they have about Japanese pop culture.

以前、 オーストラリアで展示会を開かれたことはありますか? もし初めて開かれたのならば、どんな気持ちですか?


What is it like working with a beautiful.bizarre curator?

Even though my work has been featured in several non-Japanese media before, it has never been promoted as meticulously. Also, I appreciate the fact that beautiful.bizarre asked for my artist statement and images from the earliest stage. I am a fan of beautiful.bizarre so I’m very honored to be able to work with the beautiful.bizarre team. I’ll look forward to working with them again in the future.

今回ビューティフル ビザーのキュレーターと仕事をして如何でしたか?

日本以外での発表は何度かありますが、このように丁寧にプロモーションをしてもらったことはありませんでした。また、早い段階からコメントや写真の提出を求められたことも良かったです。何よりも、以前からビューティフル ビザーのファンだったの

Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre

Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre

You have an interesting Instagram username. What does “ChardinChardin” mean?

Actually, I don’t know . . . Chardin was my nickname during my college years. My underclassmates gave me that nickname, but they don’t remember the reason they started calling me with that name. Of course, the origin of that name is the name of that French painter: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

インスタグラムのユーザーネームがとても興味深いです。Chardin Chardinとはどういう意味ですか?


The faces of the girls you paint look very realistic. Are their faces modeled after the people you know?

I need to see the subjects of my paintings; otherwise, I cannot paint them. So, I ask my female acquaintances to wear seifuku (Japanese school uniform) then take their photos. I also need to see the snacks and the toys I paint as well. Actually, if possible, I need to see the real things.


基本的に私は実物(または資料写真)を見ないと描けません。知り合いの女性にセーラー服を着せて 写真撮影しています。モデルだけではなく、お菓子やぬいぐるみも可能な限り実物を見て描きます。

Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre

The area surrounding your the girls’ eyes looks very red. Does this signify anything?

The area surrounding people’s eyes tend redden whenever they are about to cry, or whenever they blush. But, the girls in my paintings are not in situations that make them want to cry. Instead, they embrace the situations they are in and feel a sense of melancholia. That’s the kind of feelings you can see in their eyes.



When did you start painting female characters in their school uniform?

Since 2009. Before that, I used to paint distorted/deformed human bodies in a rather grotesque style. The themes of my paintings from that era is much deeper than my current one. They were representations of various social issues.



I see that you are a teacher. What subjects do you teach?

I work at a university’s Fashion Department. But, I cannot make clothes. So, I teach design, accessories-making, branding, drawing, and contemporary art.



Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre

What’s your usual working process? How do you approach a new project? Do you have a working ritual?

I am a member of an association of independent artists called Dokuritsu. It has a unique system in which – every year – its members have to submit three large-scale artworks for an exhibition in The National Art Center, Tokyo in Roppongi. Other than that, recently, I’ve been participating in 3 – 5 group exhibitions per year. For that reason, I need to paint quickly to meet all of the deadlines. By looking at the photographs I captured for reference purposes, I use my imagination to structure my ideas and compose my paintings. This is the most time-consuming phase of the whole process. But, the moment I start to paint the pieces, I usually finish them quickly. I don’t have any specific habit or ritual; but, I listen to my favorite songs to keep myself focused.



What’s your typical week like?

In weekday mornings, I teach. In weekday afternoons, I do some administrative work at school; but, after that, I have some free time till 7pm and use that free time to create my paintings. I spend my nights and weekends with my family. I guess I’m not a very keen artist.



What drives you to keep on painting?

What, huh?! I suppose, I paint because I like to paint. But, mainly, because it’s the only thing I’m good at. I compare myself with many other artists, and I think my passion for creating art is kind of low.



Is there any aspect of your work you pay special attention to? And, is there any interesting fact or detail some people might fail to notice when they view your works?

Recently, I pay careful attention to the girls’ facial expressions and skin tones.

People might not be able to grasp the full meaning of my painting right away. I express religious themes through my works; but I don’t paint about any particular religion or beliefs, just some strong beliefs a third party might consider weird. There is one other theme I explore through my work: Magical Girl. Young girls like to fantasize about using magic; but, in reality, magic does not exist.




Art means different things to different people. What does art mean to you?

Intellectual entertainment. Through art, people can reach an untouchable place where human life throbs. To be honest, it is something I don’t fully understand.



What’s the most important thing in your life?

I don’t know . . . I don’t expect very much from life. I’m not pessimistic; but, life has its own current, and people are just drifting in it.



Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an artist that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

The ability to communicate in English.

Four years ago, I only exhibited my works in Japan. So, I didn’t imagine I’d need to be able to communicate in English. At the moment, it’s the most difficult and challenging thing for me to learn.



Where else can we see your works in a near future?

I won’t be able to do it this year, but I hope I can do a solo exhibition in the US in a near future.




Bitter | Sweet @ 19 Karen: An Interview with Kazuhiro Hori - via beautiful.bizarre





























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♥ Pop Surrealism ♥ Surreal Photography ♥ Coffee ♥ More Coffee ☆☆☆ Liaises with artists and art galleries ♦ Interviews and writes articles for BB's website ♦ Proofreads the print issues of the magazine ♦ And, occasionally, acts as an exhibition reporter and photographer for BB ☆☆☆ Innovator ♣ Mixed-Media Artist ♣ Photographer ♣ Demi-Couture Designer ♣ Writer ♣ Industrial Buyer


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