I always feel a bit frustrated when I see great drawings. Years ago, when I was an exchange student in Barcelona, I took a very strict illustration class in which I learned that – as it turns out -- illustrations are a pretty serious affair. Since then I have always regarded those who can effortlessly draw in an apparently childish and naïve way with much greater respect – especially if, while doing so, they also manage to inject a certain enthusiasm into the viewer. Shintaro Miyake is one of those guys, and his colorful pen and pencil artworks make you wanna tackle a blank sheet of paper yourself.
In the past some of his creations have been apocalyptic Bosch-esque compositions with his signature squid-like creatures being slaughtered by lively-colored ghosts and demons. At Gabriel Rolt, the show centers on a weird clam-headed character, mostly appearing sitting on a chair as he contemplates the universe. The hybrid geometry of the figures that populate Miyake's images is very metaphysical, an effect enhanced by the enigmatic mottos the artist has manically composed in tight, colorful letters that pattern the background.
Both the graphomania and the colorful effortlessness of the artist's works have something trippy to them, one would assume drug-inspired or psychedelic, but it's also clear Miyake's visual references have much in common with the more famous Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami. With them he shares a typically-Japanese pop allure, but definitely not the polish of the Asian Andy Warhol. Another feature of Miyake's art lies in its performative aspect, namely the fact that the artist dresses-up otaku-style before portraying his strange creatures on paper. Although this peculiarity is not directly transmitted by the gallery show, the sculptures embodying both the main leitmotifs - the clam figure and the colorful letters – contribute to expand the illustrated plane to a more scenic dimension.
Overall, the show manages to deliver an apparently light-minded experience, which one can choose to explore to different degrees, depending on his or her interest in drawing or metaphysics. Not bad for some illustrations.
~Nicola Bozzi, a writer living in Amsterdam.
(Images: Shintaro Miyake; Courtesy Gabriel Rolt)