Art as a salve for suffering
BY YUSUKE TAKATSU STAFF WRITER
Takehiko Inoue: A boy pledges support to one of the affected areas with his T-shirt. ((c) I.T. Planning, Inc.)Inoue's three boys exchange grins. ((c) I.T. Planning, Inc.)Inoue's elderly man ((c) I.T. Planning, Inc.)A sprout gives Moyoco Anno's trio hope. ((c) Moyoco Anno)Anno's trio with the message, "Let's do our best!" ((c) Moyoco Anno)Takashi Murakami screams: "Let's bring in a new day!!" (Provided by Takashi Murakami)A tearful Murakami comforts himself with the message, "The day of hope will come!!" (Provided by Takashi Murakami)
Japanese artists sprang into action this month, creating a series of works online to comfort those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Even though art may not be able to keep the cold out, or stave off hunger, it can be a source of emotional support and encouragement. Some of Japan's top artists asked themselves what they could do to make a difference, and wisely decided to play to their strengths.
Manga artist Takehiko Inoue, best known for "Slam Dunk" and "Vagabond," had been posting a series of illustrations under the title "Smile," on Twitter for some time.
But on March 12, a day after the mega-quake struck, Inoue posted an illustration of a boy, titled "Smile 34," on the site, along with a tweet that read, "I pray." It was followed by a series of light-hearted drawings featuring smiling boys, an elderly man and a dog. He also drew boys wearing T-shirts printed with the names of the stricken areas, such as "Miyagi" and "Fukushima."
Inoue has been prolific, uploading 50 drawings in just five days. He also decided to produce an exclusive set of 16 postcards and to donate the profits to relief efforts.
"It's important to carry on working as normal, and what I am doing is nothing more than that," Inoue wrote on Twitter.
Moyoco Anno, whose "Ochibisan" manga strip has been running in The Asahi Shimbun's lifestyle section, started posting her illustrations for quake victims on her blog from March 13. The newspaper has put her strip on hold due to its extended coverage of the disaster.
Anno wanted to encourage and spur on those affected by the quake, and her cheerful drawings reflect that. In one drawing, the Ochibisan characters wave pompoms. In another a character runs across the frame holding a flag with the message: "Let's do our best!"
"People in the disaster-stricken areas probably can't see (the illustrations) now," Anno said. "But I'm drawing these in hope that they may somehow reach the eyes of people who have been looking forward to reading my 'Ochibisan' every week."
Internationally acclaimed pop artist Takashi Murakami took to Twitter to encourage artists to post their illustrations to support relief efforts for survivors.
Murakami sponsors the art fair "Geisai," which was supposed to begin on March 13, but has now been postponed due to the massive earthquake. He asked artists who were preparing to submit their works to the fair to instead submit to his "newday" project, based around the theme of: "There will always be tomorrow. The sun will rise again."
One of the illustrations shows friends gathered together in a scrum. Murakami also uploaded two self-portraits, one of which shows him screaming, and the other in tears.
"In a sense, art can be seen as impotent and meaningless from society's view of what is valuable," Murakami commented. "But I think that we may be able to communicate something, like hope, through the power of art," he added.