A WORLD, ONE GRAIN OF SAND AT A TIME
THE SUNAE ARTWORK OF NAOSHI
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place or thing with happy personal associations: this is the definition of nostalgia and also a great entry point into understanding the inspiration for and work of Naoshi. After meeting the famed Japanese Illustrator Kin Shiotani in 2004, Naoshi decided to devote her life to art. She told us how her artistic career began, “When I found a Sunae (Sunae is a technique originally from Japan that means "sand art") DIY kit at a store, I felt very nostalgic because I played with colored sand when I was a child. I fell in love with this medium again. It is a very sensitive painting method, the whole image is made by one tiny grain of sand at a time.” Starting with this tchotchke from her childhood in Iwate Prefecture in Northern Japan, Naoshi continued the theme of nostalgia in her art by depicting cartoon-like characters in an imaginary candy-colored pop and fantasy world inspired by Japanese manga comic books.
After having a serious accident in 2012, Naoshi promised to “live life with a sense of purpose and appreciate every moment.” The accident and my artistic practice have allowed her to adopt a more positive attitude towards life and gain the courage to take on new challenges, motivating her to move to Los Angeles to pursue her artistic career in 2014. Her work speaks to her newfound life philosophy, as Naoshi describes “Some of my characters are quite whimsical. I imagine myself visiting their worlds and observing their daily lives. The characters usually show no emotion. This enables viewers to project their own emotional responses. I also wish to portray the characters as living lives with a quiet attitude of sincerity and earnestness. Through humorous depictions of such characters, both endearing and at times awkward, everyday life is expressed, giving meaning to live in the present moment. With her work Naoshi’s goal through her art is for people to embrace their daily lives and face difficulties with a sense of humor and optimism through the engagement with pop nostalgia and technicolor intricacy. And alongside her art, she teaches Sunae workshops, through which she hopes to share her passion and culture with others.
In trying times, it is the job of the artist to create a respite from and reflection of the society in which we live. Naoshi’s work, with its hyper-real colors and emotions, carrying the weight of childhood naiveté and joy as well as utopic melancholy, is its own world and provides exactly the sort of escape that an artist is meant to provide; an escape that is not just for fun but which allows for learning, existential introspection and criticality. In Naoshi’s world we are taught patience in creation, imagination in design and finally, and maybe most importantly, the paradoxical fleeting-ness and deep importance of it all, that one grain of sand can change everything and simultaneous barely be seen.