Art Inspired by Vintage Photos

The artworks on this page were inspired by vintage photographs of young women and girls. In his East Meets West series (https://gavinmitchell.net/Monster-Book-for-Girls), British artist Gavin Mitchell paints over old vintage monochrome Japanese photos of girls and young women, adding western cultural elements from different time periods.

Gavin Mitchell: Monster Book for Girls (Pigment print with hand applied acrylic UV varnish on paper, hand finished with gold leaf & metal leaf; Affordable Art Fair 2019; Turner Barnes Gallery)

In the above photo, for example, the artist has painted in a few books that girls in the mid-20th century England might have been reading. The book that gives the painting its title, The Monster Book for Young Girls, was a popular series of short story anthologies.

In his Aging 2017-2018 series (www.mutualart.com/Exhibition/Takahiro-Yamamto–Aging-Painting/B888339EF2D5523F), New York-based Japanese artist Takahiro Yamamoto uses photorealistic painting techniques to produce recreations of antique postcards and photographs.

Takahiro Yamamoto: Untitled, from the series Aging, 2017-2018 (Oil on canvas, Art Central 2019, Masahiro Maki Gallery)

In the portrait shown above, the folded edge of the paper at the top left corner is a kind of trompe-l’œil—that is, it is a painting of a damaged corner that is meant to give a 3D effect (and is not an actual damaged corner). Similarly, the artist is trying to recreate in his painting the fading caused by the passage of time and all the imperfections—the scratches, tears and folds—caused by the people who handled the photo.  

In his News from Nowhere series (satoru-aoyama.com/artworks/series/news-from-nowhere), Japanese artist Satoru Aoyama adds his own drawing and embroidery to old newspaper photos. In the following artwork, the artist has taken an 1880 photo from the Illustrated London News and has used embroidery to colorize the clothing. He has also drawn over the print of the original, giving the woman in the portrait the face of modern-day actress Shailene Woodley.

Detail view: Satoru Aoyama: News from Nowhere (Shailene), 2017: Detail view (Embroidery and drawing on vintage print, gold leaf; Art Basel HK 2018; Mizuma Art Gallery)
Detail view

In another piece from the same series, the artist transforms a picture of three Japanese dancing girls from the London Times Supplement (1874) so that is now features the three lead singers of the Japanese heavy metal band BabyMetal.

Satoru Aoyama: News from Nowhere (Baby Metal), (2017 (Embroidery and drawing on vintage print, gold leaf; Art Basel HK 2018; Mizuma Art Gallery).

The three artists—David Mitchell, Takahiro Yamamoto , Satoru Aoyama—are all exploring themes related to time. David Mitchell juxtaposes images from different cultures and eras, Takahiro Yamamoto seeks to recreate the imperfections caused by the passage of of time and Satoru Aoyama updates vintage news photos with modern pop culture icons.

Photo Galleries

The photos are available in higher resolution (2048 x 1365) at:

Three Questions

  1. Which artwork on this page do you like best? Why?
  2. Gavin Mitchell adds Western props to Japanese portraits while Satoru Aoyama’s updates old photos by transforming the subjects in the pictures into modern pop icons. Do these changes emphasize how similar people from different cultures and time periods are or does it emphasize their differences?
  3. What do you think Takahiro Yamamoto’s purpose is in trying to recreate in his painting the exact look of vintage photos?

Art Challenge

Find an old photo or postcard and add your own changes to it.


~text, video and photos by

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Art by Mayumi Konno, Mayuko Iwata, Yoichi Nebashi and others

Mayumi Konno: Overlap (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

This article features works by artists showcased by the Tokyo-based GALLERY MAISON D’ART at Hong Kong’s Affordable Art Fair 2019. This gallery, run by Kisako Kimoto, focuses on artwork by female artists and/or with female themes/subjects.

Mayumi Konno

Mayumi Konno specializes in low-contrast portraits of young women with delicate features, large eyes and neutral expressions. Overlaid on the portraits are monochrome teddy bears and/or ribbons. Some of the teddy bears are solid and are being held or clutched, while some are translucent and seem to be floating or falling. The translucent teddy bears cover one of the subject’s eyes like a veil.

Mayumi Konno: Color Change2 (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

This is from the gallery’s description of the artist:

She expresses longing for sure existence and closed world with fragile beauty like girls and cut flowers and so on.

Mayumi Konno: Color Change2 (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

The subject in each painting seems to be at the not-a-girl-but-not-yet-a-woman stage. My interpretation of the paintings is that the teddy bears and ribbons are reminders of childhood (e.g., innocence, playfulness and the feeling of being cared for), and that these reminders can serve as a form of comfort as one is entering adulthood, a time when feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability are all too common.

With one eye, she can see the clear reality of life, while with the other eye she still sees things through the tinted lens of childhood innocence.

Mayumi Konno, Color Change1 (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

The overlay effect she uses is inspired by computer illustration, but her paintings are…well…paintings (not computer illustrations).

Mayumi Konno, Moments (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)
Mayumi Konno, Wavering (acrylic on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

Mini-bio: Mayumi Konno is a self-trained artist who is now based in England. Besides participating in solo and group exhibitions, she also works as an illustrator and writes fiction.

Ryo Takahashi

Ryo Takahashi’s work tends to focus on nature and portraits of females. One series of paintings he has been working on features a girl and red birds.

Ryo Takahashi, Catch 1 “red bird” (Chinese ink and mineral pigment; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

To the artist, the red birds represent a duality. On the one hand, they can represent love, luck and happiness, while on the other hand, they can represent worldly desires, evil and tragedy. Children experience all of these things—the positive ones and the negative ones. They can try to catch and hold on to the positive things and try to let go of or escape from the negative ones, but these positive and negative things are all a natural part of life.

Ryo Takahashi, Catch 2 “red bird” (Chinese ink and mineral pigment; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

One thing I find interesting about the artist’s style is that although he is using ink and pigment, his birds are very textured (almost like oil painting).

Ryo Takahashi, Catch 2 “red bird”, detail view (Chinese ink and mineral pigment; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)
Ryo Takahashi, Catch 3 “red bird” (Chinese ink and mineral pigment; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

Mini-bio: Ryo Takahashi has participated in many solo and group exhibitions since he graduated from Osaka Designer’s College was born 2003. In 2006, he went to study in Hungary for two years and has been active in the Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto art scene since then.

Satoko Watanabe

Satoko Watanabe creates dreamy, ‘mostly’ abstract paintings inspired by she shape and colors to be found in gardens—flowers, leaves, pots and roots. GALLERY MAISON D’ART offers the following brief introduction to her work:

In the garden full of green, flowers and light, she always seeks out ‘the key of light’ that connects the garden and the atelier.

Painting by Satoko Watanabe (acrylic; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)
Satoko Watanabe, Invention for the Garden (acrylic; Art Central 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)
Satoko Watanabe, Song of Map (acrylic on paper; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

Mini-bio Satoko Watanabe was born in Nara (the town near Osaka and Kyoto that is famous for its freely roaming deer). She graduated from the Kyoto City University of Arts in 1986 and is associated with Gallery Haku in Osaka.

iwata mayuko

This artist uses an unusual technique when creating her dream-like abstract (mostly!) works—much of the brownish, watery background colors are coffee, and then much of the line work is done with ball point pens.

iwata mayuko, The Astronaut Dreamed (ink, coffee, gesso, watercolor; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

On her website, she describes the central themes of her work:

The theme of my work is the depiction of organic matter.
I try to pursue that moment of when the soul is released from the body.
Within each image, I deconstruct these forms, rearrange them and then put them back together, inserting a new soul.
In this way, I want my work to express a world in between reality and the imaginary.

This short video shows her pen technique:

Mini-bio: iwata mayuko lives in Nagoya City. She graduated from the Nippon Designer Academy of Fine Arts in Nagoya, worked for a while in advertising and started her career as an artist in 2009. She is associated with Gallery Tatsuya.

Yoichi Nebashi

This artist’s work are visually striking and instantly recognizable, but I find them unsettling. His paintings feature young, babyish, doll-like girls lounging in photo-shoot style poses, often somewhat provocatively and sometimes blatantly erotically (the ones on this page are ‘clean’ ones). The girls have grayish skin and blank expressions that contrast with the wildly-over-the-top cutesy backgrounds and create a decadent atmosphere.

Yoichi Nebashi, LittleWing (oil on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)
Yoichi Nebashi, Catch me (oil on canvas; Affordable Art Fair 2019; GALLERY MAISON D’ART)

Given the erotic nature of some of his work, I feel that this is one of those situations where it is difficult to tell if an artist is criticizing a problem—in this case the sexualization of children—or contributing to it (or doing both at the same time).

Mini-bio: Yoichi Nebashi was born in Nagano Prefecture and is a self-taught artist. He has been participating in group and solo exhibitions since 1997, and in 2013 he published his first book of artwork.

Elisabeth Fréring

GALLERY MAISON D’ART also works with French artists such as Elisabeth Fréring. This artist has a minimalist, dream-like style. She uses simple materials—such as pencil and watercolor, as in the following portrayal of a she-wolf— and a lot of blank space. Fréring states that the silhouettes and vague shapes in her artwork “are reminiscent of residue from images, readings, personal obsessions” and are awaiting metamorphosis.

Elisabeth Fréring, Bestiaire – une louve 2 (pencil, watercolor; Affordable Art Fair 2019; Gallery Maison D’Art)

Mini-bio: Elisabeth Fréring was born in Argenteuil (near Paris) and graduated from the Artes Aplicadas y Oficios Artisticos School in Valencia. She lives and works in Strasbourg.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Photo Galleries

The photos are available in higher resolution (2048 x 1365) at:

Gallery & Artist Websites

Three Questions

  1. Which painting on this page do you like the best? Why?
  2. These artists are all represented by the same gallery. The artists have very different styles, but can you point out any similarities in the work of some of the artists?
  3. When writing about Yoichi Nebashi, I questioned whether he was criticizing and/or contributing to the problem of the sexualization of children. What is your opinion?

Art Challenge

Create an artwork in the style of one of the artists on this page.


~text, video and photos by longzijun

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Culture Saves Lives: Drum Circle & Art by Alexa Black

I shot this video while checking out a drop-in activity associated with Culture Saves Lives.

Culture Saves Lives

Cultures Saves Lives is a non-profit group dedicated with trying to connect people, particularly marginalized indigenous people, with their culture. While walking past their building in Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside neighborhood. I was attracted by the chanting and drumming coming from within. I asked the guy standing in the doorway (the guy on the far right of the picture below) what was going on and he replied that it was an informal jam, that people were just there to hang out and that most of the guys were his family members and that I was welcome to come in.

Drum Circle at the Culture Saves Lives community center in Vancouver

Art by Alexa Black

Inside the room, —which functioned as an art gallery (The Window Community Art Shop), a performance space and simply a safe place to hang out—the walls were covered with paintings for sale, mainly by a self-taught artist, Alexa Black.

Bone Weaver: Mixed media art by Alexa Black

Alexa Black, an artist of Métis and Mestizo ancestry, usually works with mixed-media, combining oil painting and photography with elements of the natural world: bones, leather, antlers, flowers and feathers. She uses such materials to honor the natural world and its cycles. In nature, many of these element – bones, animal hides, antlers and feathers – also serve as a kind of protection. They can represent the strength and resilience of nature. However, there is also an element of fragility and impermanence.

Mixed media art by Alexa Black

There was a nice positive vibe at the centre, but my daughter wanted to move on to see other things, so I just took a few minutes of video and a couple of snapshots.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Photo Galleries

Go Further

Three Questions

  1. How do you feel about the mixed media works on this page?
  2. How would you interpret the first work of art, Bone Weaver? What message do you think the work sends?
  3. How can contemporary art, which is often concerned with exploring new techniques and breaking boundaries, revitalize traditional cultures?

Art Challenge

Create a mixed media work using materials from the natural world.


~ video, photos and text by

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists