Hi guys, it’s here – some of you may remember me from an  late last year. I would like to thank Dana for asking me to keep the blog warm whilst she is away. I had a lot of ideas for guest posts, but ultimately none felt quite as right as this brief introduction to two of my favourite Japanese, New-York based artists – Akino Kondoh and Yuko Shimizu. Akino and Yuko have both been very inspirational for me – personally, professionally, creatively – and have particularly been in my thoughts of late, so I couldn’t be happier to have them answer some questions and share some of their new work.
First off, I would like to tell you about Akino. In fact, I suspect this must be the first time these frames, sketches and thumbnails from Akino’s upcoming animation have been shown anywhere.

Opening scene for Akino’s KiyaKiya animation.

is a Japanese born and trained artist who now works in New York. I felt an immediate affinity to her work the first time I crossed it and quickly sought out and followed her development ever since. I suspect she is a bit of a perfectionist, and we are very lucky for it! She leaps from sculpture to oil painting, drawings and prints, manga and animation, garnering acclaim across all fields, including recognition from the AX Manga Newcomer Award and Guggenheim Museum’s YouTube Play: Biennial of Creative Video. Discover more of Akino Kondoh’s work on her .

Images from KiyaKiya animation.

I would love to hear more about the new animation you are working on, ‘KiyaKiya’, would you please share a little about it?

Yes, I have been making KiyaKiya since I came to NY last year. I left NY the end of 2009, and got the visa and returned to NY January 2010. So I have been living here in Astoria for 15 months.

The title KiyaKiya comes from the Japanese verb KiyaKiya-suru. This is unfamiliar word even for Japanese. I think more than 95% of Japanese don’t know it… Kiyakiyasuruhas two meanings. The first one is a sharp pain in one part of the body. And second one, which is more important to my artworks is, something nostalgic and weighing on my mind, but hard to explain what it is. I think that is just like the feeling after you experience déjà vu. Have you ever experienced it?

Images from KiyaKiya animation.

I have many processes to make this animation. It is same as my past animation. First I drew many sketches about 400 to confirm the image. Almost my images come from my childhood memories. I remember a lot especially shocking and dreadful ones more clearly than happy ones. When I was a child I was afraid of them, but now I’m thinking back of them many times, and they become the cornerstone of my creation.

Next, I made a storyboard. It is the most important process. And then I started to draw according to the storyboard. One seconds requires 15 drawings, so it is very hard work. KiyaKiya consists of 3 sections, and I’m making second section now. I plan to finish all until this October to show it at my solo exhibition in Tokyo. I have to hurry up more… it has already took me about one year…

More images from KiyaKiya animation.

I love Eiko, and I love the world of tiny things, buttons, bugs, petals and waterdrops, that Eiko lives and dances in. Please tell me more about Eiko and what makes her the ideal girl.

Still now, she is the image of my ideal girl. I drew her for the first time when I was a high school student, 18 years old. She was the same age of myself 18years old on that time. But she sometimes looks like a child, or adult woman. And she sometimes gets weight, and loses again. She changes her figure day by day. Recently I think 13years old is good age for her, it is the borderline of a child and a girl.

It is hard even for me to explain about her. I don’t know why I named her Eiko…but I feel she is the symbol of my childhood. She can do anything, and can be anywhere.

Akino’s beautiful storyboards.

Your work is artwork playful, beautiful, but dark, emotional, expressive but orchestrated and choreographed, delicate but heavy and bold, innocent but worldly. Eiko falls into small, intricate, intimate acts, like sewing buttons and playing with ladybirds, to open up big, expansive imaginative, fantasy, dream-like spaces. Do you feel like you are sharing much of yourself in these stories and pictures, or does Eiko’s world feel quite separate from your own history and personal experience?

All images come from my memories. So I don’t think her world is separated from my own real life. It is not real, but very near from mine. I’m thinking back of the impressive memories again and again. For example…

One day I accidentally tasted the yellow liquid from ladybird’s leg, and it was bitter. The other day I was playing under the big water-tank, and found an old flannel shirt with a four leaf clover pattern which frightened me. There was a picture book with a drawing that frightened me, but I couldn’t help opening it.

They weren’t happy memories. I remember them clearly because they’re dreadful and shocking. But thinking back on them many times, it seems like they all transform into a beautiful “nightmare”. They were scary memories when I was a child, but now I feel they are nostalgic and beautiful. Small events in my life turn into new memories and intermix with the “nightmare”. Eiko is playing, dancing, sleeping, and sometimes being death in them. I might be trying to recreate childhood memories again through the creation.

Akino’s beautiful storyboards.

You are living and working from Queens, NY, right now, but I know your head and heart must be with Japan at this time, as are mine along with the rest of the world. There is plenty of confusing and conflicting information reaching us from different media and governments. It can be overwhelming to think of what we can do to help heal, learn and move forward as tiny individuals in the middle of this big, surreal event.

I heard the news of the earthquake in NY at night. I called to my mother soon, and I could confirm her and my family was unhurt and safe. And I sent a lot of mail to my friends. Almost my friends are living around Tokyo, so they were all safe and fine. Tokyo isn’t near the focus of the earthquake.

But I got the uploaded news day by day, and watched the terrible sights around the Tohoku-area. I deeply feel sad and worry suffered people. I became uneasy, and couldn’t stay at home, so went out. But the people in Astoria spend ordinary days! Children smiled, and family looked happy. I was shocked and felt sorry to all Japanese, I was living safe place by myself. I also felt lonely, like I became a foreigner, not a Japanese.

Recently people in Tokyo keep calm and try to spend ordinary days. They all do their best for suffered people by their own ways. But they themselves live under emergency and the fear of the nuclear plants. My mother told me that you mustn’t come back to Japan now. And I also told by my foreign friends you were lucky.

I’m thinking what I can do for Japan now. The donation is important of course. Recently I think it is the best way for me, I should keep on creating as Japanese. We should do our best by own ways, and it will lead Japan better.

I don’t know well, but through the Red Cross is best way to donate. Thank you for your kind help and concern.

Image studies for KiyaKiya storyboards.

Images © Akino Kondoh
Courtesy the artist and Mizuma Art Gallery.

Red Cross donations and .

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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