Graphic Designer, Kosuke Kawamura (KK)
OS: Hello, Mr. Kosuke Kawamura. I heard that you began drawing and graphic design at a very young age and it is known that you started using copy-machine and Photoshop early on.
Did you have some friends around you who did such activities? How did you become interested in graphic design, which may be unfamiliar to a child?
KK: At that time, having just moved to Tokyo, I didn't have friends engaged in such activities. Since I wasn't attending school, I learned how to use Photoshop entirely through self-study.
From around the age of 14, I began exploring various types of music, sparking my interest in graphic design and collage through PUNK ROCK record covers I encountered at that time.
OS: The seemingly conflicting emotions of the material - futuristic/punk, digital effects/analog - seem to be influenced by a variety of content. In your other interview, the expression of comfort in “virtual nature” was also impressive in a similar context.
Where did these themes and sensibilities of your work come from?
KK: I came without studying art, so I believe I was naturally influenced by various things I saw or heard since childhood. Sensibility isn't something you can acquire through study, so I think it's about accepting things that intuitively feel good without imposing restrictions or strange values in daily life.
OS: I also read an interesting story about you and Winston Smith, about you suddenly receiving a box of collage materials from him and started making things by hand yourself.
Was it the point of time when your work method changed from digital to manual, just like performing live music? What led you to the manual method?
KK: In my twenties, I met Winston in San Francisco through an introduction from an American friend. I became a fan of his work, discovered through record cover art when I was 15, and developed an interest in collage simultaneously.
Initially, I misunderstood Winston's work to be digital due to its delicacy and precision. When he proposed a collaboration upon our meeting, I received collage materials from him, only then realizing he created analog pieces. This revelation prompted my first venture into analog creation.
The encounter with Winston and my initial misconception became the catalyst for transitioning from digital to analog. Now, I create artworks by selectively using analog and digital techniques, sometimes blending both in the process.
OS: The most famous material in your graphic work is definitely the style that expresses an illusional effect using repetitive shredded vertical lines.
How did you first get started with this style? Did you think, “This is it!”, the moment you first developed this time-slip-like special mangle effect?
KK: Before using a shredder, I created artworks by combining various materials to build a composition. The technique involving a shredder emerged by chance when I felt a bit bored with that approach. Around 2009 or 2010, I started this method seriously, and over three years, it evolved into the current form of my artworks. Initially, it was a simple layering technique, resulting in highly abstract pieces.
OS: Your signature collage style seems to highlight the core essential parts without being too obvious. It's as if you can't tell who's behind the vertically patterned glass! Similarly, the nymo typeface we developed was also made to overlap the letters in a vague and ambiguous way, rather than being too naked and readable.
What was your intention behind using this collage technique?
KK: Feeling bored with the method of constructing artworks using various materials and having questions within myself, I pondered the possibilities of collage. In exploring the limits of reducing materials in collage, I considered how far I could minimize elements in creating a finished piece using the existing materials. The answer was to finely slice and shift a single photograph, reconstructing it into a new composition.
By creating slices and introducing effects like blur and noise, the resulting artwork reveals a world or image beyond the noise. Each viewer's brain individually compensates, recognizing it as a single picture. Although the physical artwork exists as a composition from a single photograph, I believe that because everyone's brain adjusts differently, each viewer perceives a unique image. Hence, my artworks exist physically, but the mental images are varied, creating a diverse interpretation for each of the 100 viewers if, for example, 100 people were to observe the piece.
OS: You collaborated with various clothing brands using the shredded effect.
When collaborating, by what criteria or correlation do you propose graphics with similar effects but different images for each brand?
KK: I continue the production process by proposing material choices aligned with the brand through multiple meetings. Since the effects in artworks using a shredder vary, there are no strict criteria.
An aspect known only to me is that the way I trim the photos significantly influences the outcome. Depending on the cropping technique, even with the same method, the results can be entirely different – abstract with pulling back, or impactful with getting closer. This factor, combined with whether the brand desires an image using a logo or a photo, greatly shapes the overall impression.
OS: Aside from the clothing brand, I personally think your graphic design charm was showcased really well in the Budweiser collaboration. Adding a Warhol-feel to Budweiser, which has a strong American character, was a great match, and I also really like combining the infinity mirror effect with your signature shredding effect. It feels very different from other collaborative projects.
How different did you approach compared to the other clothing brands?
KK: For this collaboration, I deliberately created everything digitally, even though the final output is a silkscreen print. By producing effects that are not achievable with my usual analog methods and using digital tools to create something I typically make analog, I achieve a completely new form of expression.
Despite using Photoshop for digital creation, I don't rely on filters, so essentially, I perform analog-like work within the digital realm. There is no significant difference in approach when collaborating with a clothing brand; each time, I create using the method that aligns with my current artistic inclination for the specific collaboration.
OS: Lastly, there must be many young talents who want to become a prominent graphic designer like you. There must have been a lot of effort and events to get you to where you are now.
What event had the greatest influence on your success?
KK: While there isn't a specific event that influenced me, the key is to persist, never decline requests, and find enjoyment in everything—both the positive and negative aspects of experiences and work.
*interview date: 2024.January.18
Kosuke Kawamura © 2024
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