Contextual research – Illustrators, animators & comic book artists

As “Brave New World” is set in a fictional, dystopian future it got me thinking about stories and artwork that follows a similar theme. Immediately the Japanese illustrator & animator Tatsuyuki Tanaka came to mind. He has something of a cult following despite worked prolifically, including as a key animator for “Akira”, one of the most celebrated and famous animated movies of the 20th century. I came across his work some years ago, at the time being very keen on anime and manga. I have since progressed from this phase however I think Tanaka’s work can be held as a stunning example independent of that world. His incredibly detailed drawings depict futuristic urban scenes, full of pipes, wires, steam and smoke, hybrid mecha-humans and machinery. The tones are muted and grey, heightening the industrial, urban feel. His characters are tough, wearing expressions varying between boredom and determination. Although he has worked on a variety of animation and published projects many of his personal concepts remain only partially realised. In 2008 he published an art book, “Cannabis Works”, featuring sketches, paintings and stills from many of his projects. Personally I like the fact that some are only snapshots into an idea, leaving the viewer to make up the rest of the story of themselves. Two of his short animations have been featured in collections by Studio 4c. The story follows a young woman, alone in her stark, dingy apartment, where everything appears to be constructed from metal. There is no dialogue for the first 5 minutes, only industrial noises hinting at machinery operating constantly. This audio lends an eerie, lonely quality to the film. The woman appears resigned to the limitations and boredom of her existence.

Whilst researching Tanaka I found references to an artist called Moebius. After a little digging I discovered that he was a French artist, cartoonist and writer, real name Jean Giraud, who worked mainly on comic books including the cowboy series “Blueberry”. He created his own comics in a surreal, imaginative style under the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, as well as producing concept designs for films such as “Fifth Element” and “Alien”. Moebius’s colourful, psychedelic illustrations depict sweeping fantasy landscapes and creatures. It is easy to see how the themes and style have influenced Tanaka’s work; both work in intense detail and bring to life an alien yet believable world within a still image.

Beb-deum was a name I noted down when searching for artists to research for the last project. His work was featured in the book from the exhibition HEY! Modern Art & Pop Culture, Paris. He is another French artist, also influenced by the work of Moebius, along with Japanese culture and Italian comics. He is regarded as the pioneer of digital art in France. His series MONDIALE considers the possibilities of a future built on the ideals of consumption and self-image. His ethnically diverse women wear symbols of modern technology and personal care as exaggerated symbols of their identity. To me Beb-deum is questioning what happens to individuality and one’s sense of identity when we are bombarded with marketing and products targeted at ‘helping’ us to reach the same ideal. His use of bright colours, pop culture symbols and soft-focus contrasts with the more sinister concept. Some works feel almost like a cautionary tale about the future. Aesthetically his work is very different from Moebius and Tanaka and yet the Japanese influence is clear and his work follows many of the same themes.

Each of these artists have made work considering the possibilities of the future, both in terms of technology and social [r]evolution. These themes are closely linked to those in “Brave New World”. The specific extract that I am working from – the first paragraph of the book – does not explicitly mention the era or any socio-political elements however we can gather that it is not in ‘our world’ as we know neither the ‘World State’ or ‘Central London Hatchery’ to be in existence, then or now. We are also introduced to the mysterious “Fertilizing Room”. From the description on the room we know that it is cold and clinical, literally.  These details hint at futuristic, dystopian setting, especially when we consider the context of when it was written.
What I hope to interpret into my own work is their ability to hint at a story and encourage the viewer to imagine their own for the image. However I will be using a much less illustrative style.


The Art & Animation of Tatsuyuki Tanaka

Book: “HEY! Modern Art & Pop Culture / Part II”
Authors – Anne & Julien
Publication date : 10/01/2013
Isbn : 978-2-35910-402-8



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