The entrance of clothing shop BEAMS' Shinjuku branch: presenting Fancy Head, a joint exhibition of photographer Yoshimitsu Umekawa and painter Kensei Yabuno.

Fancy Head: Moments Of Ecstasy

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Two artists, one exhibition: Photographer Yoshimitsu Umekawa has been capturing the party lives of Tokyo’s subculture celebs all over the place, while Kensei Yabuno is an internationally established painter, known for the style he displayed on the cover of Beck’s “The Information” album. Fancy Head at B Gallery, Shinjuku, now brings these two together. PingMag met Yoshimitsu Umekawa and Kensei Yabuno to hear more about the exhibition’s untold truths and the ennui of these two Tokyoites.

Written by Chiemi

So, how did this collaboration come about?

Yoshimitsu: One night, we were drinking till dawn in Kichijoji with another friend who was chatting up a girl next to him. Then somehow, we fell into talk about tits and Kensei deliberately touched the girl’s right breast and because I was drunk, I touched her left breast. And when we held both of her breasts, we thought “Yes, we are going to work well together.” (laughs)

What?! That’s terrible! But I suppose that was your first ever collaboration…. So you are essentially drinking buddies but you also feel attracted to each other’s work, right?

The poster for “Fancy Head.”

Yoshimitsu: I usually don’t say that out loud, but yes.

Kensei: Oh, of course. (looking at

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each other)

So, the illustration for the poster of your exhibition was by someone else…?

Yoshimitsu: I just scanned a cover of a horror movie I had at home, saying something like “This’ll do fine, it’s cool isn’t it?” (laughs)

It’s amazing that you can get away with it…. So tell us more about how you feel about the works. The theme is “Fancy Head” and in fact, Yoshimitsu Umekawa’s works have in some ways captured the moment of famous people’s public ecstasy – some of the photos might have placed the artists’ careers in rather precarious situations….

Yoshimitsu: Yes, it’s definitely THE moment. But I have asked for permission from everyone, so it’s okay. (laughs) Many of the works were what I’d been saving up for a while so I thought this was a good timing and decided to go ahead with it.

Photos by Yoshimitsu Umekawa, capturing some underground celebs in candid moments of ecstasy in public places.

A photo of Naohiro Ukawa(MOM/N/DAD PRODUCTIONS) by Umekawa. Ukawa is one of the most influential young artists in Japan today.

“BANANA” for photographer Tatsushi Ishiguro, also by Yoshimitsu Umekawa.

One of the photos in the exhibit is of a car with graffiti. What was that about?

Yoshimitsu: About five years ago, my friend told me that there was a car near his place whose owner obviously had been in trouble. So I went to Azabu Juban to have a look at it. There, I found a Majesta with “You thief, give me my money back!” written all over it, and its tyres had been slashed. I think a moneylender was in for hard collection, seizing the whole building.

On this quite expensive car, someone spray painted “You thief, give me my money back!” Yoshimitsu Umekawa’s “REAL GRAFFITI” mirrors the ‘other’ side of Tokyo. So, remember, you always have to pay back all your debts…

I entitled it “REAL GRAFFITI” as a full hundred percent statement. Or rather, it has got nothing else but the statement. I have many graffiti artist friends but this is my view of graffiti and the exhibition runs under this kind of concept. None of the photos is staged, it’s all documentary! I’ve been capturing the realistic side of Tokyo with quarrels, drunken people and gangsters on a routine basis.

It’s a good thing to get more people to look at the other side of Tokyo…. So, how does Kensei Yabuno feel about the works?

Kensei: There isn’t much of a message but I am influenced by people’s ways of living. When I work, I accumulate original ideas within myself and then paint when I feel in the right mood for it.

In contrast to Yoshimitsu Umekawa’s works, Kensei Yabuno’s style is rather cute. But if you look more closely at the works… Photo by Hideki Ebata

…you can see that the uber-senses are their common denominator.

“PIMP OR DIE (PUMP OR DIE)” by Umekawa

This exhibition will move on to the Dazed Gallery in London this autumn. What kind of folks would you like to meet there?

Kensei: People who’d buy all of my works.

That’s so materialistic….

Kensei: I’m only being realistic! You can’t do anything without money….

Yoshimitsu: Don’t worry, I’ll invite Beckham! He’ll buy every single exhibit!

Kensei: In Japan there simply isn’t a culture of collecting art. I’m really disappointed by people’s lack of interest in buying artworks. There are plenty of things to be disappointed about…

Yoshimitsu: There’s no such background for this in Japan which makes things really difficult. We have so much entertainment for people to easily enjoy what they have been served – but there are very few who would contemplate about it. That goes for young people as well.

Kensei: I think in Japan, there are less people with an ‘active’ imagination than elsewhere. People with a vision would recognise the value of an artwork and collect it, so I’d like to work in an environment where there is an actual demand.

Inside the “Fancy Head” exhibition. Photo by Hideki Ebata

Meaning Japan is a difficult environment for artists?

Kensei: It’s really hard without being owned by a gallery. If you want to work independently, you can’t just paint. You’ll also have to think about marketing and care about other things you’d rather not want.

Yoshimitsu: In Japan, the lack of government subsidies makes things harder too.

I know what you mean. In countries like the U.K., there are many organisations that support artists financially. Whereas in Japan you have to find companies that support you….

Kensei: I don’t think there is much enthusiasm to create something new in Japan.

I suppose, Japan is still conservative in many aspects as far as the art scenes are concerned. Then, what are your goals in the future?

Kensei: I’d like to meet someone who’s trying to start something new.

Yoshimitsu: I want to XXXXX. (laughs)

Oh, please stop saying things we can’t openly publish!! Yoshimitsu, Kensei, thank you for your time today. I hope many people will enjoy your exhibitions in Tokyo and in London!

From left, Kensei Yabuno, Yoshimitsu Umekawa, Cuizinier from the French rap group TTC and the photographer Tatsushi Ishiguro (who was wearing a banana skin on his head earlier).

Right now, the two are both looking for an agent in Japan and abroad, moreover Umekawa needs an assistant. Sounds interesting! So, go on and contact them through their websites.

Exhibition Info
“Fancy Head” by Yoshimitsu Umekawa and Kensei Yabuno
From August 16th until September 18th.
Location: B Gallery at 6F BEAMS, 3-32-6 Shinjuku, Tokyo. Map.
Admission: Free

London: October 11th until November 30th
Location: Dazed Gallery at 112-116 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BG

  • Troy

    People in Japan are so creative, I wish it was like that here. Then again, that’s what makes Japan unique, which is so cool!

  • Anonymous

    It’s not Japanese culture that’s keeping them from making any money, it’s their rubbish “art”.

  • Cara

    I’ve always thought that creativity is actively discouraged in schools an universities in Japan.
    And always nice to see some people actually breaking out of that nice, cozy-controlled environment.
    Though I agree, these guys are just happy drunks, but they have fun, they just might make something interesting some day.

  • otakugirl

    Some Japanese gyus are just repeating what we had in european art galleries for the lat 50 years. Calling this ‘creative’ is an offense to real artists. Too bad because Japan has a name for refined aesthetisc.

  • chiemi

    This might be my personal opinion but many Japanese people are too polite. I think these guys are very honest, and if you have some Japanese arty friends in Japan you must know this is not a fake conversation. I just wanted to let you know that this is a real conversation like you do with your local friends.

  • Badger

    I think I will visit this in London, can pingmag post a reminder for me?

  • Huh?

    I love Pingmag. But this article was pathetic. Or perhaps it is a Dada Art joke?

    I’m sorry, fellows, but your art is flat and lifeless.

    Every high school in America has better art than this hanging on the Art wall.

  • chiemi

    If you can read Japanese, have a look at Japanese page. Usually Japanese people don’t even say if it’s good or bad but because of some negative comments in the article, people started to speak up and turned into a big argument (now it’s most commented article in JP page this year), which I find it very interesting.
    I should say thank you to Yoshimitsu and Kensei!

  • Taki

    I love pigmag. Sometime, I don’t. I hope their (Yoshimitsu and Kensei) attitude is not Pigmag’s attitude.

  • tim

    it’s sad how people can assume ping mag owes them something or that they can feel free to accuse the contributors for pathetic writing or ‘farting around’ when something doesn’t suit their taste.

    their ‘art’ doesn’t grab me but they do make some interesting points in the article. it’s just a shame it wasn’t coming from a more credible source.

  • Ike

    Ignore the haters. Art is in the eye of the beholder. I think a lot of supposedly “great art” in museums look like s***. I’m a HUGE FAN of Modern/Urban Art btw.

  • Nuno

    I gotta admit… this article is rubbish.

  • maki

    Same with all things, some people will dig it, some people won’t. Their “art” somehow reminds me of Urban Outfitter’s stuff. Perhaps it’s fresh in the Japanese circle.

  • yani

    lol love it farting around smoking n drinking coffee smoking up shitz that’s what i’m doing daily

  • charlotte

    i had to read this article because i was blown away by all the negative comments. i can only guess that the article wasn’t enjoyed because the artists were maybe hard to like. i say who cares. as artists they are doing more then what i’m doing right now. if you take a look at the cobrasnake people freak over that guy and his stuff isn’t that different. i think these guys have something that a couple of these comments lack…a sense of humor. i think that as artistic people we should stop being so pretentious and stop spitting so much hate. embrace all sorts of art and quit being so stuck up and stop killing the messenger! it was a great article.

  • charlottemyass

    Geez, wtf you talking about last comment

  • charlottefullofshit

    I agree. Something about cobrasnake people.

  • karl

    this is by far the best response to anything ive ever seen in pingmag. why? because people have been honest, WITH AN OPINION. normally its just “awesome” or “kawaii!” or “keep up the good work pingmag!”. hey people, its OK to say something sucks! more vitriol please!!!

  • whack

    not very convincing.
    looks like bill n ted X puffy.
    hope their parents get tired of funding their crazy artistic lifestyles really soon.

    boring interview as well. its too chummy, theres no inquiry made into the work.

    sorry pingmag, but this is Whack with a capital W

  • Sukebe

    Been done before so many times. I guess some people just dont get what art really is. All the Japs do is good research and copy paste copy paste and modify.

  • 0ha

    All the Japs do is good research and copy paste copy paste and modify.

  • altın çilek form seti

    Been done before so many times. I guess some people just dont get what art really is. All the Japs do is good research and copy paste copy paste and modify.

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