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INTERVIEW Hajime Sakurai

The gallery talk for Hajime Sakura's exhibition "Hip & Square," which started on November 19.

This is the text of the gallery talk held on November 20. You can learn about Hajime Sarai's past and future. Please enjoy the video as well.


Hajime Sakurai

Graduated from Kyoto Institute of Technology. As an illustrator and graphic designer, he has been working on artworks for advertisements, posters, magazines, and record jackets. In recent years, he has been in charge of NONA REEVES jacket artwork, Morinaga DARS x niko and... collaboration package design, and FM802 "MEET THE WORLD BEAT" main visual. Recently, he has been doing client work in Thailand, China, Taiwan and other Asian countries, as well as participating in art fairs.
Instagram▶︎ @sakuraihajime Twitter▶︎ @sajkuraihajime


Hajime Sarai Gallery Talk (11.20)

Artist" and "illustrator". I think it is in this balance that I draw pictures.

Taniguchi: Welcome to chignitta space! This is Chignitta Taniguchi and Sasanuki. We've just started "Hip & Square" with Hajime Sarai, and it's been very well received.

Sakurai : How do you feel about it? For the past couple of years, Taniguchi-san has been telling me to make a big work, but I stubbornly refused. I've had four solo exhibitions this year, Fukuoka in March, Tokyo in June, Kyoto in September, and now Chignitta. Laughs. I had four solo exhibitions this year, Fukuoka in March, Tokyo in June, Kyoto in September, and now Chignita. Laughs. I've been doing well this year, probably because of the 2020 hiatus, and I've been getting a lot of purchases and feeling good about my work, so I thought I'd take on the challenge of doing a big work, which I've been told to do., I'm wondering if I can sell such a big work in Japan, so it's more like an adventure or a challenge or a gamble. It's really naughty, but it cost me more than 500,000 yen to prepare for this exhibition. Laughter. In a real sense, it was also a gamble. But we decided to hold it. What do you think?

Taniguchi: "It's good, isn't it? Laughs

Satokoro: After making me say this much, "Isn't it good? Is that it? lol

Sasanuki: It was even more amazing than I expected, and I was already saying "Yay" when I walked into the venue, getting really excited. It was so cool! Mr. Sakurai, you really worked hard on that patch! Is that too much praise?

Sakura: I'm the type of person who thrives on praise. Thank you very much.

Taniguchi: I've been going out with Sakura-kun for about 15 years now. I think we've gone through a few changes. To begin with, it's a bit confusing to start out as "mods. It's only for mod people. It's only mods people who talk about quitting "mods" or "mods" forever.

(Note) Mods is a general term for the style of young people in the suburbs of London, England, who loved fashion and music from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.

Saturai: Yes, that's right. I've always had an obsession with "style," starting with "mods," and I'm unnecessarily conscious of whether that style is right for me or not, and how I approach it. This awareness is not important to other people, though.

I remember Mr. Taniguchi telling me 15 years ago, "You won't get your break unless Shibuya-kei has a revival. Laughs. It left a huge impression on me. When I think back to what you said at that time, I feel like you were casually predicting 15 years from now.

Note: Shibuya-kei, Sibuya-kei, or Shibuya sound is a Japanese popular music genre and movement that originated in Shibuya, Tokyo, and flourished in the 1990s.

Taniguchi: Shibuya-kei is having a revival right now. I think there's also a Sakurai boom coming. Laughs. After that, my impression is that your encounter with Hiroshi Nagai was also very important.

Sayuri: Yes, it was. At that time, Mr. Nagai told me, "If you want to be an artist, you have to use handwriting." I had been doing graphic design to begin with, and started working as an illustrator as an extension of that. But that has changed a lot. I didn't know how I could get involved in art, so I decided to start putting out hand-drawn works, or to start holding exhibitions.

Also, as an illustrator, you have orders and work to do, so you have to figure out how to respond to those orders, but in this kind of exhibition, you are not asked to do anything, so you draw what you like and hope that the audience likes it.

That's why I can't completely separate "artist" and "illustrator" in my mind, and I think I draw pictures in this balance.

Exhibition at "ART GROUND", Bangkok, Thailand (2018)

What I experienced during my four days in Bangkok.

Taniguchi: Ms. Sasanuki, you have worked with Mr. Sakurai as an illustrator for many years.

Sasanuki: I've been working with Mr. Sakurai for about two years for an apparel client in Bangkok, and I think he's a professional. He knows what the other person is going to say, can respond to feedback immediately, has a clear idea of where he's going to land, and finishes the job in an good chemistry. That's why he works fast and doesn't waste time. Also, I get a lot of love calls from people asking me to draw for them. I think it's wonderful that you've been asked to do some work.

It all started when we went to the Bangkok art fair "ARTGROUND" together in 2018.

At first, Mr. Sakurai was a little freaked out. Laughs. In fact, I didn't have any information until I went there, and you had a blank look on your face from the beginning, but it turned out to be a great success.

Sakurai: I really didn't know anything at all, and all I knew was that I was going to submit my work to an art fair, but what was I supposed to do?

Sasanuki: Even though we were groping around, the works we exhibited really captured the hearts of people in Bangkok, and our fan base grew. It's not only for individual customers, but also for people who came to see the exhibition as part of their work, because they thought, "I like this person," and it actually led to work.

Sakurai: Those four days in Bangkok were huge. I was able to take a proactive approach to things that were not planned. Since then, I've realized how important it is to communicate in English, and when I send out messages on SNS, I try to do it in English. Since I started doing that, my overseas followers have increased, and now the ratio of my followers is Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and then Bangkok.

Taniguchi: That's a very important story! We always talk about self-promotion for people who exhibit at Chignitta, and "artist branding" is a major theme of Chignitta.

Sakurai : The way I am approached from overseas is that I ask you to do client work, but when I post images of my works for exhibitions on Instagram, I get inquiries such as "Can I buy this work? I had been thinking only about how to survive in an industry where Japanese illustrators dominate, but I realized that my path could be expanded by simply looking at the world. Even if you don't know exactly what you are going to do, just by sending out messages in English, I think it's a Japanese trait, but at first I was worried about things like, "Will this English be okay? But first of all, if I were a viewer of a social networking site, just the fact that people think, "This person is Japanese, but he writes in English," would be an opportunity for me. I think that was a big factor in sending out messages on SNS.

Taniguchi: It's motivating when there's a response, isn't it?

Sakurai: Yes, it does. I'm still not good at talking in English in person, but it's easier to communicate via email. There is also translation software, so I think the hurdle is not as high as I thought.

Installation view of Sarai's work at the China Art Fai

Asian taste is a necessary spice for the overly cautious and meticulous Japanese

Taniguchi: After that, Sakurai-san was also offered an exhibition at a gallery in China, where big paintings are required, right? Taniguchi: After that, you were offered an exhibition at a gallery in China. I was surprised when I saw a picture of an art fair at a gallery in China.

Sakurai: Everything is so big and messy. Laughs. But I think that messiness is a necessary spice for Japanese people who are too timid, cautious, and meticulous.

Taniguchi: I was amazed when Sakurai, who didn't have a passport or know how to fly until four years ago, said she was going to transit into Beijing by herself when we all went to Xiamen. I thought it was amazing when she said she was going to enter Beijing by herself when we all went to Xiamen. I thought. Laughs

Sayori: Mr. Taniguchi, you said that's not good enough. Laughs

Taniguchi: Yes, yes. I told you not to draw a big picture by yourself. I told that you should just specify the size and design and let the local staff draw it. Just sign your name at the end.

Sayori: Actually, I've gone completely over the limit by doing this size of work by myself. To put it another way, the fact that I've exceeded the limit with this exhibition means that I can't do it any more on my own, which means that I've reached my ceiling.

Taniguchi: I think it would be a good idea to create "Studio Sakurai" all over Asia. For example, if I get an offer for a big solo exhibition in China in the future, and I'm asked to create works for five gallery rooms and deliver one large 50-meter painting, I won't be able to do it.

Also, at the exhibition in Hakata, I told him to stop putting his signature inside the paintings. I think it's the most important thing for an illustrator to put a cool signature on the edge. I'm glad that he kept that in mind this time. I ordered a large size and no signature.

Sakurai: That's right. Since the last exhibition in Kyoto, I've eliminated the signature on the front, but I thought I had to include it because it was part of my style, but it actually got in the way of the painting. But it was actually getting in the way of the picture. By composing the picture on the assumption that the signature would be included, I realized that I was doing some unnecessary work, and it became much easier.

Taniguchi: It's a habit of designers, isn't it? I've always said that the amount of elaborate signatures you make is also a hindrance to your work. I think that's the next step for me as an artist. What? I was going to talk about records, but it turned out to be a very serious topic. lol

Holding a large piece of artwork created in Beijing.

HIP" and "SQUARE" are your mottoes.

Taniguchi: Let's talk about vinyl records, and about the inclusion of record jackets as a motif in the exhibition titled "HIP & SQUARE" by artist Hajime Sakurai. I think this is an expression that only an artist and DJ like you, Sakurai, can make. What was the purpose of wanting to express yourself by including the record jackets in your paintings?

Sakurai: My love for records is a prerequisite, and in recent years I have often used girls as motifs in my works, and I consider them to be my icons, but at the same time, I have a "style" that is the backbone of my work, so I wanted to reflect that in some way, and hope that people would be able to relate to me there as well. I've always wanted people to like my work. Taniguchi-san knows all about my background and history, so if I were to exhibit my work in a completely unrelated place, he would have to ask, "Why did you draw the record? In June, I was invited to exhibit at VOID gallery in Tokyo, which is owned by Hitoshi Odajima, a music connoisseur who is also the art director of Sunny Day Service. The exhibition at VOID in Tokyo in June was very well received, so I wanted to do the second one in a different way, with the same title and the motif of records and girls.

Ms. Sasanuki wrote about "HIP" and "SQUARE" in the promotion of this exhibition, and this is because Makoto Wada wrote about "HIP" and "SQUARE" at the dawn of illustration in the 1960s in one of his books. HIP" is a trend, and records are something that I have always had a "SQUARE" feeling about, so when it comes to expressing art, I want my output to be "HIP".

HIP & SQUARE record "Chris Montez / The More I See You" (1966)

For example, this record by Chris Montez from the 60s. For example, this record by Chris Montez from the 60's. If you just look at the cover, the girls in the back look like members of the band, but there are no such members. LOL!

HIP & SQUARE record "Miles Davis / Miles Ahead" (1958)

This record by Miles Davis, "Miles Ahead," is not Miles', of course. Of course.

HIP & SQUARE record "Laurindo Almeida / Acapulco 22" (1963)

Taniguchi: The world of this jacket is very much connected to the image of Sakurai-kun's exhibition.

Sakurai: There were a lot of jackets with this kind of feeling in the 60s, and I think that the tendency to use women as a "hip" motif was a key word in the background of pop art at the time. Why have I always drawn pictures with female motifs? It's always been difficult for me to explain, but this jacket with the female motif really fits in, and I feel like I've been able to incorporate it into my own style.

...There's more to come, but I don't think it's "hip" to go on and on with explanations of the paintings, so I'd like to invite you all to come and see the actual works. I'll be waiting for you at the venue!

sakurai hajime Solo Exhibition "Hip & Square

Period: November 19 (Fri) - December 5 (Sun), 2021

Time: 13:00 - 19:00 / Free admission / Closed on Monday

Venue: chignitta space

Address: 1-13-21, Kyomachibori, Nishi-ku, Osaka City

Contents: Exhibition and sales of paintings, goods sales

Inquiries about the works are welcome:

(The latest information will be updated on chignitta Instagram @chignitta)


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