First published: Spring 2018
Born in 1976 and based in Fukuyama, in southern Japan, Kushino Nobumasa is a researcher who formerly worked with people with disabilities and now specialises in the activities of contemporary Japanese self-taught artists. He has shown their creations at Kushino Terrace, his gallery and art space in Fukuyama, and has published his findings in several books, including Yankii jinruigaku: Toppashatachi no “āto” to hyōgen (Yankee Anthropology: The “Art” and Expressions of Breakthrough People, Tomonotsu Museum, 2014) and Autosaido de ikite iru (Living on the Outside, Taba Books, 2017). Here, he introduces four art-makers whose work he has examined. (Names appear in the Japanese manner, with surnames preceding given names.) Kushino uses the term yankii (Yankee) to label some self-taught artists in Japan; that American word has been adopted to mean “delinquent” or, by extension, “maverick” or “renegade”. It evokes their hard-to-classify works and describes their individualistic points of view, which stand out in a conformity-minded society like Japan’s.
Raw Vision’s senior editor, Edward M. Gómez, is a specialist in Japanese modern-art history who is co-curating an exhibition of recent works from Japan for the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne Switzerland.
ラーテル Anaguma Hachirō (“Ratel”)
The second of two sisters born in Osaka, Anaguma Hachirō, who is known as “Ratel”, does not reveal her birthdate. During her childhood, since she did not do well taking part in group activities, she withdrew and stayed at home. Affected by developmental disabilities, depression and other conditions, starting in the second year of middle school, she began painting pictures with a particular touch. At that time, while systematically copying the pictures that were reproduced in an art textbook, she was mesmerised when her eyes landed on the works of the Edo-era painter Soga Shōhaku (1730–1781).
Since then, over a period of 15 years, in her room at home she has continued to paint. Until now, she has produced more than 300 works, in which different characters appear. Among them are many grotesque pictures, which have been greatly influenced by Ratel’s love of horror B-movies from the 1980.
The artist Itō Terumasa at his home in Hiroshima with his paper-lorry sculptures, photo courtesy of Kushino Terrace
伊藤輝政 Itō Terumasa
Bodies made from construction paper. Glittering silver parts made with aluminum foil. Tyres made with wood purchased from a home-centre store. Plastic drinking straws to “hydraulically” lift the vehicles’ load-hauling carriages. All easily available materials, close at hand, used to create elaborate paper lorries. Just like actual lorries, all of their working parts really do function.
Itō Terumasa, who lives in Hiroshima, was born in 1977 with a severe heart condition. Unable to physically exert himself due to his illness, he has come to spend most of his time at home where, with fascination, he has created a big, beautiful world of dekotora (or “decoration trucks”, from dekoreeshon torakku, the Japanese phonetic transcription of the English words). As fate would have it, as a young child, Itō watched Truck Guys, a series of Japanese movies. Adorned with decorative lights and paint, dekotora became a nationwide craze. Itō began to create his paper trucks.
小林一緒 Kobayashi Itsuo
Born in 1962, Kobayashi Itsuo lives in the city of Misato, in Saitama Prefecture, with his elderly mother. After working as a chef in a local buckwheat-noodle restaurant and lunch centre until the age of 46, due to neuritis related to alcohol consumption, he began suffering from a difficulty that made it hard to walk.
Turning to the unpublished writings he had produced since he was 18 years old and calling upon his memory, since he was around 26 years old he has filled notebooks with his illustrations and written impressions of all the meals he has eaten. Recalling everything, from each restaurant’s name to the design of its plates, he diligently recreates each dining occasion, and the extraordinary power of his memory has been astonishing.
八木志基 Yagi Motoki
Born in 2003, Yagi Motoki lives with his parents and little brother in the city of Kawasaki, in Kanagawa Prefecture. When he was four, he was diagnosed as autistic. It was difficult for him to easily express his thoughts, so, since he was a young child, to let his mother know what he has wanted, he has drawn and shown her pictures. In school, Yagi still does not have a best friend, so instead, each day, after he returns home, he draws pictures straight through until bedtime.