[From April Issue 2015]
CHO Hikaru / ZHAO Ye
“I think the phrase ‘it’s beautiful’ is a phrase people formulate in their minds when they’ve seen something that has made an impression on them. So, when I receive such a compliment, I’m not happy because I don’t know if my artwork has really touched that person’s heart,” artist CHO Hikaru says. “If someone who sees my painting frowns involuntarily and says, ‘Yuck,’ it makes me happy because I feel like I’ve heard their true opinion.”
Cho mainly paints. Although she is still in her junior year in the Visual Communication Design department of Musashino Art University, she’s already known for working in a variety of fields, including painting, producing videos, and designing characters. Having entered into a contract with an apparel manufacturer, she also designs clothes and tights.
Cho became famous for her body painting, by painting realistic-looking art onto people’s skin. “When I was preparing for my entrance exams for art school, I had to paint still lifes every day. Then, I got fed up and wanted to make pictures of humans, so I tried painting an eye. I did it on the back of my hand because the art supplies I was using back then were expensive and only available at an inconveniently located store, which made it troublesome to go buy them,” she says with a laugh.
She loved the eye she had painted on her hand so much that she posted a picture of it on Twitter. Then, it was retweeted more than a thousand times. Cho says: “In those days, ‘Parasyte,’ a manga series about creatures living inside human bodies, was becoming popular; people thought my eye painting resembled one of these parasites and found it funny. I suppose they were also drawn to the fact that this weird painting had been done by a young woman.”
Knowing that trends quickly come and go in the world of the Internet, Cho thought her post would soon be forgotten. But even after six months, it was still getting retweeted. But the positive feedback didn’t stop there and before long she was being asked to perform on TV programs. When she exhibited her work requests came in from people who wanted to collaborate with her.
“I became famous before I had completed my artistic training, so I was criticized by some people who said that any artist could easily paint that kind of picture,” Cho says. “When I come across remarks badmouthing me or my works on the web, I take screenshots of them to reread later. I find them both instructive and funny. I’m the kind of person who can put things in perspective,” she says with a wry smile.
“I think the reason I turned out this way is partly because I was born in Japan to Chinese parents,” says Cho. “I’m treated as a Chinese person in Japan, and have to have my fingerprints and picture recorded when I enter the country, as if I were a potential criminal. In China, I’m viewed as more of a Japanese person because of my poor Chinese.”
“But because of this upbringing, I learned to look objectively at the way countries tend to strengthen unity by looking down on other countries,” says Cho. “It’s not what it seems” is a picture of a banana painted to look like a cucumber and is Cho’s favorite of her works to date. “I wanted to ask, ‘What can you tell about who someone is on the inside, just by looking at their skin color, nationality and other external aspects?’”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo