Ten Questions: With Artist Shimoda Masakatsu
Shimoda Masakatsu is somewhat of an enigma, which, in this day and age roughly translates as there being very little information about him on the internet. What we do know is that he’s a man of many talents with an insatiable appetite for creativity. Be it drawing, sculpture, illustration or writing, Masakatsu lives to create and build. Dinosaurs are a continual source of wonder and inspiration for him. Their form and mystery fuels a significant part of his sculptural oeuvre, and his talents were called upon earlier this year by Rei Kawakubo, who commissioned him to create a collection of head pieces for her Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Autumn/ Winter 18 show back in January.
The resulting sculptures, extraordinary works of roughly cut canvas brought to life with cotton upholstery, represented a benevolent kind of dinosaur, the type you might find on a pair of kids pyjamas, and seemed to underscore Kawakubo’s wider celebration of youth, and a refusal to abandon the sentiment of childhood. For Masakatsu, there is a kind of innocence to them, an intrinsic connection to his own childhood that reveals itself through their toothy grins and endearing expressions. Via several translators and an extensive email chain, we spoke to him to find out more about his work…
FINN BLYTHE: Your work is very broad and includes illustration, design, set production and costume. How would you best describe your craft?
SHIMODA MASAKATSU: I’m not only interested in drawing, but also creating generally. So I’m always looking to do stuff related to creation and making things.
FB: How did your collaboration with Comme des Garçons come about?
SM: I was contacted by Commes Des Garçons.
FB: Do you know Rei Kawakubo personally?
SM: No, this was my first time meeting her. But ever since I was a high school student, I thought she was someone who I would never get a chance to meet in person, like a model in a magazine.
FB: You have produced these dinosaur models for some years, when did you first start making them?
SM: It was ever since July in 2011, when I visited a museum in Tokyo and saw an exhibition on dinosaurs. Although I’ve always really liked dinosaurs since I was small, the impression I got from the exhibition of skulls of dinosaurs was very strong and left a deep impression on me. After I went back home, I started creating horns and other parts of dinosaurs with cottons and canvases. When I put the finished piece on my head, the size was perfect and I felt like I got stronger. The feeling I had at that time was a little different to when I just drew. Since then, I started creating things like that for myself, just for fun.
FB: What is your fascination with dinosaurs?
FB: Given your interest in skulls, there is arguably an element of death to your work – where do you draw your influences from?
SM: For me, it doesn’t remind me of death, but their power of vitality. Also, just like human skulls, sometimes they look like they are smiling, and so the skulls of dinosaurs also look a little bit comical for me.
FB: Can you tell me a little about the process of making the models? What material do you use?
SM: Originally, I started making the dinosaurs with the canvases that I use for drawing. I sew them and then add cotton to them to create their individual shapes.
FB: What inspired you to produce your travel book of illustrations ‘Private World’?
SM: I travelled overseas for two years when I was in my twenties. I visited Shanghai first, then Tibet, Nepal and India. After that I also travelled to Europe. It was my first time travelling overseas, so I took my diaries and sketchbook. But eventually I started drawing the faces of people I met in places that I visited. For some reason, people in Tibet were really happy about my drawings and I also felt like drawing more since then. After I came back to Japan, my diary and sketchbook were published. After that my job officially started.
FB: What interests you so much about the human face?
SM: The time I spend together with the model while drawing. I like to spend time with the people I draw. We usually talk over my sketchbook while I’m drawing the person’s face. I usually draw quickly so they don’t get bored. It usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes. Unlike taking a picture, drawing is not capturing a moment, but is like expressing a living person on one canvas. I usually draw with coloured pencils, so I don’t focus on the person’s shape, but their colour.
FB: What are you working on next?
SM: I’ve been drawing portraits of people, and recently I’m finding it more and more interesting. Also, with dinosaurs, recently I feel like I can create something I’ve never been able to create before. So I’ll try more in the future. I’ve gained courage and confidence from Comme des Garçons, so I feel like I can create even more.
Above imagery courtesy of Shimoda Masakatsu ©
Below, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus AW18