A pregnant woman whose body is entwined tightly with octopus tentacles and a Hokusai-like splashing wave as background; a girl standing still and giving a detached look while a dog’s head disappears right up her skirt obviously doing something there… some of the slightly odd but nevertheless luring scenes depicted by Yuji Moriguchi. This Tokyo-based artist blends a frank but still innocent looking eroticism with delicate traditional Japanese painting, spicing it up with contemporary manga. So for today, PingMag visits Moriguchi at his home, an old house in Taito Ward. While sitting in front of Japanese paper sliding doors painted with his own marvellous signature sailor-suited school girls, Moriguchi introduces us to his fantasies:
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Kevin Mcgue
As you graduated from the manga department at Kyoto Seika University, it’s been always your favourite?
I always liked it and I would doodle manga characters, but I was actually more devoted to reading than drawing it. Since it was hard to get into the Western painting or Japanese painting departments, I thought that manga was something that I could do, and so just started drawing.
What were you especially interested in then?
When I was a freshmen, I would go to the zoo and work on animal studies. I really loved the gap in the potential ferocity of a hippo’s muscular body and the calm look on their faces. Also, I attended a seminar of a teacher named Miyotaro Sagawa, who had us work on human figure studies and live sketching rather than manga drawing.
Did you already develop your significant style at that time?
No. I wasn’t working with colour back then but was doing monochrome drawings in pen: people and views of the town. Often, Japanese drinking houses and old men appeared in my early works as well. Then twelve years ago, I came to Tokyo and my works started expressing a sense of ennui. The first such painting was this one [below, left].
One of the first paintings with a sense of ‘ennui’ Moriguchi created after moving to Tokyo.
And at that point you also started with girls as motif…
These girls create a desire to be near them, at the same time exuding an atmosphere that it is impossible to actually be close to them. Every pictures tells a story. Actually, I was influenced by the Maetel anime of the Galaxy Express 999 manga. When I was a kid, I would draw pictures of Maetel to settle arguments with my older brother about which of us was better at drawing.
…and those stories are your fantasies?
Yes, things I just happen to encounter without realising. I like these little moments we experience within our daily lives, and so I build these stories up while I creating the works.
In your paintings, you take scenes of ordinary life and highly stylise them. Please explain a bit.
After I moved to Tokyo, I had more opportunities to see Ukiyo-e and traditional Japanese paintings, and I realised that I love these art forms. I had always loved Hokusai, but never had the chance to study his works. Eventually I thought that I might be able to mix manga with traditional elements from Japanese paintings.
For sure, your work really does look like a fusion of manga and Japanese painting. By the way, flowers started to appear in many of your recent works. What’s your thing with them…?
Flowers are kinky, aren’t they? They have a poisonous quality besides a symbolic meaning. (Laughs)
How do you work usually, are you always scribbling down ideas in your sketchbook?
I usually sketch on the back of copy paper, and then trace a first draft. I want to clean up the lines, so the work progresses in stages and I work on the detailed areas. Only then do I decide on the colours.
When did your paintings get more erotic?
More and more, I was commissioned to do erotic works. These days, often it is the client who decides the themes. By the way, I don’t only do painting, but also manga under the pen name “Namida Zubon.” (Laughs)
”Namida Zubon,” literally meaning “Tears Trousers” – what an awesome pen name! Also, next May, you will be participating in the group show “Japanese Fantasy and Eroticism” at the Metallos Gallery in Paris. What will the French think of your erotic pieces?
France is the country of the escargot, so I am sure they will understand! (Laughs)
One final question: Octopuses often appear in your works. Why is that?
I just love them! (Laughs) They are kind of kinky, I think. I would love to do a whole exhibition on the theme of octopuses some day.
Ahem, I don’t think I can ever look at an octopus the same carefree way again, when I see one sliced up the next time I’m at a sushi shop… Yuji Moriguchi, thank you! We will see your awesome paintings at the “Alice Fantasy” group exhibition starting tomorrow at Span Art Gallery. If you happen to be in Tokyo, you absolutely have to check it out!