Few artists are able to build an entirely new imagery starting from a traditional background. Definitely, the Japanese artist Shohei Otomo (aka Hakuchi), is one of those happy few. We don’t know many things about him: he graduated from Tama Art University, and, soon after that, he managed to develop a personal style, gaining international recognition with his signature ballpoint pen illustration. Further, he keeps it simple – always using black&whites with some killer red accents. His works are just impossible to ignore, they’re powerful, filled with a genuine creative passion and a lot of attention for the details. Although we can get an idea about his inspiration – manga, traditional Japanese iconography, western comics, gheisha look or samurai attire, it is still difficult to drop Shohei’s art in a particular style. It’s just his own style. For me, it’s like Sin City treated a la japonaise, or like a playful alternative of Bjork’s infamous Homogenic cover, designed by Alexander McQueen.
But, what I like most about Shohei Otomo’s art is his particular spirit of vitality, the enthusiasm of mixing violence with juicy fashionable elements, always adding a dose of good humor. I think the Europeans have a certain (mis)understanding of the Japanese culture, which they often regard as minimal, intellectual, sober and colorless (the Japanese fashion makes no exception). But, as the Harajuku style already showed, there’s a lot of creativity out there, a sense of theatricality and a creative optimism. And Shohei Otomo’s art stands as a major proof for it.