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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogIndependent Japanese Pop-Artists You Should Know

Independent Japanese Pop-Artists You Should Know

By James
November 12, 2021

Pop-art as well has a very close relationship with commentary on social and cultural mores. Artists usually find a creative way to express their opinions on society through juxtaposing two or more different art styles together, or especially by placing two things next to each other that usually wouldn’t be thought of as related. This is all to try to get people to stop and think a little deeply about something in the wider world that they might not always consider. 

There are so many creators and illustrators worldwide who give the world fantastic art and ideas to ponder. Today though, let’s look at a few big-name pop-artists from Japan who have led the way in familiarizing overseas audiences with unique perspectives from Japanese society and new ways to look at the world.

Japanese pop-artists in particular tend to, from time to time, incorporate manga-like motifs into their works, and may even include allusions to traditional Japanese art as well. It’s a very democratic take on art and there’s always a surprise in store for the viewer. 

Takashi Murakami

No list of Japanese modern pop-artists would be worth its salt without mentioning Takashi Murakami. Murakami himself has coined the term ‘superflat’ to describe his art style. This term refers to both the ‘flat’ nature of graphic art, including animation, as well as a criticism of the emptiness of consumer culture.

Murakami’s art generally is full of bright colors and often includes flower motifs, elements of traditional and modern Japanese culture, and is often described as being ‘psychedelic’ at times. Murakami has a huge following around the world and his art often goes for sky-high prices at auctions. His works often are a commentary on otaku culture, and he is a fan of blurring the lines between both consumer culture and high art, creating something new that straddles both forms, creating something entirely unique in the process. 

A testament to his international success and relatability, Murakami was chosen to animate a version of Billie Eilish’s music video for ‘you should see me in a crown’.

Yayoi Kusama

At 92 years old, Ms. Kusama is as active in her field as ever, and continually amazes with breathtaking installations at museums worldwide, enthralling thousands of spectators. Kusama has stated that her artwork, which often involves repetitive polka dots or accumulations of light and color, is a window into her inner being. Suffering from hallucinations at a young age, replicating the visions she would see helped to heal her and bring her a sense of peace, and this healing power of art is what she wishes to share with the world. 

Some of her most famous works are in the shape of pumpkins and colored brightly with various sized polka dots. These sculptures are often large and situated in nature, drawing art-lovers to unique destinations to appreciate Kusama’s work.

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Mori Chack

Iconic Japanese graphic designer Mori Chack, who YumeTwins collaborated with for our December 2021 box theme ‘I ♥ All Purpose Bunny’, is a leader of an independent side to kawaii culture. His hit characters are often made into limited-time plushies sold at game arcades in Japan, often with unique styling, colors, and materials.

His strength involves combining opposing elements you normally wouldn’t expect, such as giving cute characters hotheaded personalities. That’s the case with All Purpose Bunny and Chack’s other big-name character, Gloomy Bear. Both of these characters are relatively cute but if provoked the right way it’s best to watch out! 

Mori Chack is a big proponent of animal rights and he expresses this through his choice of characters that he creates. He believes that animals are meant to be in the wild and that it’s difficult for some animals to adjust to living with people. He uses his characters as a cautionary tale for humans to consider how much they should encroach on the natural world.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

These three artists are just a very small sample of the huge pool of creativity that exists not only within Japan but around the world. These artists have all independently made their names known through sharing their thoughts and opinions through what they create, garnering fans who recognize pieces of themselves within the artwork. Which of the three do you relate to most? And what kind of elements do you seek out when looking into art? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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