[From June Issue 2013]
After graduating from art college, FUKAHORI Riusuke worked in the corporate world, but he quit his job at the age of 26 to realize his dream of becoming an artist. However, he did not excel in any genre and neither did he have an original technique. Worried about his future, he was on the verge of giving up his dream. One day, exhausted from worry, he lay down in his room and caught sight of a goldfish in his aquarium. He had won this female goldfish at a summer festival seven years earlier in a “scooping goldfish” game.
“I hadn’t looked after it and the tank was dirty with feces, but the bright red fish had grown to about 20 centimeters in length. From above it looked so beautiful that it sent shivers down my spine. It was as if the fish was crying out, asking why no one had paid any attention to her existence. I knew right there and then that she would save me,” recalls Fukahori. He now calls this his “goldfish salvation” day.
“In the early days, I would paint goldfish with shadows to create a sense of solidity. But I realized that to survive as an artist that wasn’t enough, and continued experimenting to create my own technique. One day I recalled my experience of working part time with resin. I tried painting directly onto transparent resin and achieved excellent results.”
In 2002, two years after “goldfish salvation,” he came out with his 3D goldfish painted with a technique he’d developed himself. These realistic goldfish, that looked as if they were frozen in time, made quite an impact and came to be highly valued as works of art. Winning an art prize the next year, in 2007 he opened a new studio in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and in 2009, began exhibiting overseas in countries such as Germany, the UK and Hong Kong.
Fukahori’s painted goldfish aren’t in aquariums, but in teacups, square shaped containers for measuring sake and even old drawers. He explains that this is because, “I don’t paint by observing real goldfish. I watch my pet goldfish daily. When I look at a vessel, goldfish just pop into my mind’s eye and I paint from memory.”
Goldfish are commonly found in aquariums in Japan. Unlike tropical sea fish, they depend on humans to exist. Fukahori says, “Goldfish are not only beautiful and mysterious, but also poignant creatures. Just as humans pollute the earth, they pollute aquariums with their own feces. They make me think about life and the environment day after day.”
Though there have been times when he’s gone without sleep in order to complete big commissions, he no longer accepts these requests. Fukahori, who was born and grew up not far from the famous goldfish breeding city of Yatomi, Aichi, says, “Just like goldfish breeders, I want to breathe life into my imaginary goldfish and create works that people will fall in love with.” Today he continues to paint, searching for answers to the puzzle of what the existence of goldfish means to him personally.