"They, with their acrylic skin painted on celluloid panels, are trying to have lives equivalent to our own. More and more they are evolving in tandem with digital society, gathering energy of a kind that transcends language, and becoming a global presence."
The digital era has made porous the boundaries between our reality and the virtual realm. Today's young generation are growing up and establishing their world views and identity along with the fictionalized characters of animation. These characters in turn play varied roles in their lives, be it as pets, friends, heroes or lovers. Where the real world disappoints, the digital realm and its characters provide solace, role-models and companionship, allowing humans to let down their defenses and immerse into their fantastical universe. Japan's anime culture has created an inseparable bridge between the fantasy of the digital world and the culture of the real world.
Matsuura's work combines popular cult figures and animation, acting on a visual border between design and art that should not be interpreted on a superficial level. Rather his oeuvre not only clearly articulates the modern visual symbolic system, but stands as a subtle commentary on the inability of this generation to distinguish themselves from a digital world.
With two girls adorned in baby pink and baby blue, 4 Little Girl (Lot 1055) fulfils the fantasy of the wide-eyed protagonist with cute, girlish characteristics. With eyes looking up, their hands are clasped together as if in prayer, complemented by prayer-like robes. The whimsical quality of the composition borders on cute and disturbing-- like many of Matsuura's works, we are invited to a world of fantastical imagination, where we can express our naked desires in the same way the two girls fervently look above for solace.
Imagination is a critical element in Matsuura's work-- Pook e Koop (Lot 1053) adds to this simulated world where a boy with a cheeky looking smile is encased in a plastic, cartoon head, dominated by hollow, life-less eyes. Though not an accurate depiction, the forced magnified perspective is enough to make an association with the character Pikachu by an immediate glance, highlighting the immense influence and appropriation of characters from the digital world and our susceptibility to it on a daily basis. While the notion of eternal youth is prevalent in Japanese pop culture, the boy hidden within the Pook e Koop is a fitting reminded of the extent of living in fantasy to the point of distortion.
In contrast, Kingyo-hime (Lot 1054) stands on the crossing of reality and imagination with the power to seduce her audience. In the Princess Goldfish anime by Takashima Kazusa, a goldfish turns into a woman for one night to thank a boy for saving her. Her fleeting moment in this world is fully captured through her raw stare and vitality, coupled with a child-like body wrapped in a pink kimono, provocatively bent at an angle. The fins of her goldfish headpiece add an untouchable delicacy giving movement to the piece, while the black, futuristic space-like background provides undercurrents of gekiga style- emotionally charged upon a slightly darker setting. Though a touching story, the girl can only remain human for one night, and in the same way her human-like status is short-lived, Matsuura questions whether we can weave in and out of fantasy and imagination without losing sight of reality.
The huge visual falsehood and self-reflection on role-playing is what makes Matsuura's work equally powerful and unnerving. In all three Matsuura utilises raw black contours that act to compress the shape of the character, and in a fashion typical to animation, employs the layering of different hues of the same colour to create an array of shadows, movement and shape. Here the dark black outline, smooth application of saturated colours and magnified perspective shows a combined style of graphic arts and comics.
Anime, manga and even images we see today of historic figures are not physically present in our reality but in our minds and on paper. We began by accepting them as figures of a digital universe yet day by day the boundary between superheroes and humans is dissolving. There are numerous people who find pleasure in taking on personas of surreal characters, who identify with others and create a factitious community.
Although anime style drawings are practiced by many different artists, Matsuura's works are distinctive in his technique and overall visual representation. Most distinctive is the artist's optically deluding, stylized gradation of color. Typically seen in animation, this technique essentially is a layering of different hues of the same color in different shapes and results in a visually stimulating array of colours. The blocks of colour are so unmistakably definite that we are reminded of neat lines of coloured pixels that crawl across our computer screen.