A Cyborg Utopia: The Art of Shichigoro
Shichigoro imagines a world populated by fearless cyber-heroines, wistful robots, and strange, anthropomorphized creatures. He brings these visions to life through digital painting techniques. Influenced by anime, manga, and Japanese film, the artist mixes a cyberpunk-ish future with organic elements, envisioning his own odd reality where panda bears play with mechanized giants, and winsome girls — bandaged and goggled — tote deadly weapons.
Shichigoro-Shingo Matsunuma began as an oil painter, studying at Tama Art University in Tokyo. Finding the tools of the trade prohibitively expensive, he moved toward digital painting solely as a way to keep creating without constantly spending money for supplies. He found a ready partner in these digital tools, furthering his visions with layer upon layer of texture. Starting with sketches, Shichigoro’s technique involves going over the same areas repeatedly with both brushes and erasers, preferring a fairly limited tool-set. He started his digital world with an old version of Photoshop but, more recently, he’s been seen working in Clip Studio, a Japanese paint program. The following image, f-drawing, has a speedpaint on YouTube that is just mesmerizing to watch!
One process works for me. I work with a pen tablet and Photoshop to complete everything after beginning with a rough underdrawing. Most of the pictures are painted from a motif and biology that combines organic machines and robots, Kuricha, and minerals. – Shichigoro
While Shichigoro has thought about the world his beings inhabit, he prefers to leave these questions up to the viewer to answer. He muses the possibilities of a ruined Earth, a planet in a distant future, or possibly a parallel universe. In a guest interview with DeviantArt he offered, “Although this element might not be settled, there is no denying that many of my works address our coping with our humanity. There are many robots and strange living creatures fused with inorganic substances in my work, but I never imbue these creatures with negative feelings like unhappiness, sadness, fear, or anger.”
He has often repeated the statement that although his images may seem dark and menacing, he sees no sadness or fear in them. Rather, he imbues them with positive emotions, thinking of them as beautiful, gentle creatures that live in dark, strange worlds. At DeviantArt he says, “Little glimmers of light in the dark world are very important to me. It might look like I am only drawing dark worlds, but the substance of my work is actually the light in the world.” That seems very true of his earlier work, but many of the more recent pieces seem decidedly more menacing, almost horror-centric, a departure from his earliest beasties which were outlandish but somehow charming. These later pieces evoke much more of the post-apocalyptic vibe so often ascribed to his works.
Shichigoro seems, at times, to be channeling everything from Tim Burton to Hayo Miyazaki, from H.R. Giger and M.C. Escher to Maurice Sendak, Naoto Hattori, and Manga comic books. This ability to draw from disparate sources and come back with something utterly unique, compelling, and playfully dark is an inspiring talent. It is, however, central to Shichigoro that his beloved mechs and monsters are pure of heart, no matter what inspires them.
“I personally think they draw on the themes of ‘silence, peace, kindness, and joy within the feelings of a small alien figure.” – Shichigoro
Currently a freelance illustrator, Shichigoro believes that digital media will continue to grow in acceptance and importance in the contemporary art world. His work embellishes a veritable horde of book jackets, CD covers, and magazines even as he continues to show his work in group and individual exhibitions. He has done many collaborations with Black Milk Clothing, several oddly endearing toys, and, just recently, a few silver and black plated jewelry items were featured on his Facebook page. A glossy and delicious compendium, The Art of Shichigoro, is now available in paperback:
I want to create original art work that I imagine in my created world. In my world there is no fear; no fear of creatures and no fear of machines, just no fear! – Shichigoro
It’s pretty easy to keep up with Shichigoro’s steady output; this media-savvy artist can be found on DeviantArt, Facebook, and Twitter, where he has a loyal following of admirers fascinated with his strangely uplifting world of dark creatures, hopeful robots and post-apocalyptic cyberpunk heroines.
Unless otherwise noted, all images via Shichigoro.com