The Mirror of Human Dolls
by Lala J.P Lestrade
Akagi Shigure is a skilled Japanese artist who creates hyper-realistic artworks which he calls "dolls". Made after photographs and sometimes directly moulded on real persons, his creations feature introspective individuals - children, teenagers and young adults - each one expressing a magnetic and sensual presence. Just like the Mdvanii artwork in a parallel domain, these fascinating artworks of an insidious beauty are very representative of a particular genre on the outskirt of contemporary art trends, which uses the doll as a principle, subject and medium, for a whole artistic discourse. Just as video art which was not in the early 1980s acknowledged as an indisputable contemporary art form, one can guess that the message delivered by such art forms will be more easily acknowledged in the future, although undoubtably there will be many attempts and few successes.
Akagi Shigure is an artist's pseudonym - I've never known what is the real name of the author of these artworks - the name designates a particular ice cream made of shaved ice with strawberry syrup which is very much appreciated by Japanese people in the hot summers in Japan. I also don't know exactly why he chose this name, but if I think about it, I can sort of read in the image the evocation of a state of innocence, as a brief moment of life caught in slow motion. All his dolls, wherever it be a young woman with wet hair lost in her thoughts, a child swallowed by an manga style animal in acrylic fur, very "kawaï" indeed - fancy dress outfit ? simple outfit with a hood?- or a young bare-chested neo-punk boy, barely out of childhood and already erotic with tattooes and pierced nipples, wearing a leather dog collar, cuff bracelets and street wear pants or an unfinished, interrupted human-robot, are all so hyper-realistic. The fascination they provoke is altogether enlightening and also disturbing. But from where comes the trouble exactly?
The feeling of being moved, as one is moved by artwork, comes from these human figures which keep like a "statement" and more so, a stigma of caste, the principle of the ball-jointed articulations of antique dolls - so dear, and for a reason, to Hans Bellmer - which draws with permanent chalk the line between two worlds. Far from traditional sculpture as well as from the store display mannequins, which are nothing more than human photocopies useful to wear human fashions, the human-dolls are also no longer toy-dolls.These human-dolls live in a no-man's land and look at us - or not- through the mirror. Fascinated and as if we broke into a sanctuary, we are looking at them, as much as we want and as long as we feel like it, with the intoxicating sensation of impunity and the confusing feeling to be the voyeur of our own phantasms. The human dolls of Akagi Shigure talk to us about the future and it is right there, you can already reach it with you hands.
Lala J.P Lestrade
This article was published for the first time on the previous site of the Fondation Tanagra in 2005 in the STYLE GURU section. I was honored to see that Mr Shifure took for his site the tittle I gave at the time: The Mirror of Human Dolls.
"My idea of the fantastic is to create something extremely innovative that convinces the public to explore the universe of imagination."
Lala: When and where were you born?
Akagi Shigure: was born in 1963, in Kiryu-city in Gunma-ken Japan.
L: What led you to make your own doll creations and what is your inspiration?
A.S: I get inspirations for my works from everything in the world, which excite my sensibility, but recently, I pay attention to the special culture so called "OTAKU" culture by young people, which came from animations or "manga" in Japan.
L: Do you consider your creations to be dolls, mannequins, sculptures? Is photography an important and separate concept of the artwork itself?
A.S: My works are dolls. My photographing is an independant art work. I was interested in photographs long before I started making dolls.
L: Tell me about the way your dolls are made: the material, the process. Do you work alone, do you have assistants, do you make only one-of-a-kind pieces?
A.S: I use stone powder clay and "FRP" as materials. There are two kinds of ways for making dolls. One is the way that I make original sculpted mould in stone powder by myself. The other way is, I make a mould in the shape of real woman in FRP (which was used from making mannequins old time). Dresses are made by others sometimes. All my works are one-of-a-kind dolls. I don't have an assistant.
L: Are you happy when you have to part from one of your creations?
A.S: I am happy sometimes, but I am sad other times.
L: Are there any pieces that you could not part from and why?
A.S: I cannot part from a work whose mold was made in the shape of real woman. Because this work was helped by many people and it took 4 years and I have many memories (happy one and sad one) in it.
L: Are you surprised by the way people react to your work?
A.S: I am happy that there are people who are interested in my works
L: Do you agree with the fact that your work can be appealing to some people for special reasons beyond purely artistic appreciation (if there is such a thing) such as sexual of fetischist fascination? Is it a notion that you incorporate in your work though I see no perverse intention in your artworks?
A.S :It is natural that the dolls become special objects for pervert people sometimes, and I think it is not a bad thing. But, I have a little misgiving that some excessive dolls create a trigger for some people whose tendancies may drive them to become sexual offenders. In my case, I make many works in very realistic style, and so, I regard to control to express the eroticism in my works. Also there are some of my works which include factors like the fetishism, because I need it for my style for these works, but they don't have an erotic theme.
A.S: Dolls or objects of human shape, which were made with creator's all soul, have a power of making people think various things. I think it is one of magic of dolls.
L: In which way are science fiction themes interfere in your inspiration?
A.S: Now, Japan is an advanced country of human shape robot, and the science fiction world is going to be actuality according with rapid progress of technology. In the situation, for myself, the definition of dolls and the definition of robot are very close
L: What do you think of Japanese contemporary artists’ work with dolls and what, in your opinion, makes your work different?
A.S: There are many doll creators who have the aim of selling their dolls, and so, they are bound with various restraints. Consequently, they make smaller and pretty dolls many. Also there are many doll creators in Japan, who make dolls by arranging the style of existent dolls. This is a particularity of Japanese doll creators. Most of them consider a doll as a motive. While in myself, I want to express the nature of human being, primarily, and I chose a doll as a means of my expression. My motive is the human being. Therefore, maybe, many of my works lap out from the category of general dolls.
© 2006 - L JP. L
Thanks to Sumiko Watanabe.