Last weekend, Pictoplasma (previously covered here) returned to Berlin for their 11th annual showcase of Contemporary art and design trends. Pictoplasma is well known across the globe for its character design annuals, but the festival also highlights fine art, street art, illustration, toy design, animation, and graphic design. This year saw a continued interest in character-driven Pop surrealism, which addressed modern societal issues through kitsch and cute characters by an eclectic roster. Over 40 international artists took center stage with an extensive program of workshops, lectures at Babylon theater, and two major exhibitions- Pictoplasma’s main exhibition “Form Follows Empathy” at Silent Greene and the Pictoplasma Academy Group Show at Urban Spree. Newcomers such as Tado and Hikari Shimoda (HF Vol. 29), hailing from the UK and Japan respectively, joined artists Akinori Oishi, Yomsnil, Yves Geleyn, Birdo, Brosmind, Nicolas Menard, to name a few. They provided audiences with a fresh insight into “Character Culture”.
Hikari Shimoda speaks at Babylon Theater, Berlin.
Pictoplasma’s roster is part of a movement with roots in Asian culture, and boasted several attendees from Japan in particular. Perhaps the most famous icon of this movement is Hello Kitty, who stars in Tado’s first-ever stop-motion animation. The artist duo presented her as their inspiration and an example of a character’s higher role. She has no mouth or facial expression, allowing the viewer to project his or her emotion onto her, and a relationship is instantly formed. Many were quick to point out that underneath their subjects’ kawaii (“cute”) exteriors are much darker themes. Hikari Shimoda elaborated on her use of specific motifs, such as the sparkling Chernobyl’s necklace that adorns her child subjects. They serve to remind us how our present day actions affect our children’s future. Her paintings are an example of the festival’s overall theme. It seems that every artist wears cuteness on his or her tool belt to cope with or make light of humanity’s destructive tendencies. Korean artist Yomsnil shared Shimoda’s exploration of spiritualism and characters as modern day idols. Slide after slide, he showed images of higher art objects, like porcelain sculptures, which he transforms with funny faces. This is a concept that artist Akinori Oishi reduces to its most simple, natural form with his message, “Smile”. Smiling characters appear everywhere in his world, on toys, fruits, and buildings. Not everything in the festival is cute, but nearly every artist projects his or herself onto something that brings it to life. Their art is a remix of pop culture references and real life experiences, where empathy comes first and the character follows.
Form Follows Empathy:
Hikari Shimoda with her painting on opening night.
Pictoplasma Academy Group Show:
Christian Michel ‘Crisaseo’
Yasmin May Jaafar aka Yamahamay