Ikki Kobayashi’s new series investigates the tension between shapes and negative space

In a new series, Between Black and White, the Japanese designer explores the balance of designing in monochrome, thinking just as much about the shapes created by the negative spaces as those in black.

4 December 2019

“When I draw a shape, I am not just making a form in black but always trying to find beauty in the relationship between the white of a canvas and the black of a shape,” says Ikki Kobayashi, when we catch up with the Japanese graphic designer about his latest body of work and accompanying exhibition Between Black and White. In the series, Ikki has played with forms – some bold and imposing, others more delicate and full of movement – to develop a sense of balance between presence and absence, in works where the negative space is just as important as what has been drawn.

“I believe that the resonances caused by each black and white shape make beauty,” explains Ikki. “I say 'between' black and white because I think onlookers can almost feel the background.”

The title Between Black and White stemmed from a talk he gave at Russian art event Typomania (a theme that organisers actually gave him) that has come to mean much more. “I think those words represent what I am today,” he tells us. Like many, designers this relationship between a mark and the page has long been an important part of Ikki’s practice. “I am a graphic designer, but most parts of my work is by my hand,” Ikki says. “I’m drawing on a paper with Rotring pens and marker pens in black and white, so it is very important for me how to build a relationship between black and white in my day-to-day work.”


Ikki Kobayashi: Between Black and White

While Ikki’s previous work has been inspired by Japanese symbols and graffiti, this project takes in forms like flowers, books, abstract, Matisse-like cut-outs and the leaves of maple and ginkgo trees. “I hoped to use the two leaves symbolically because the exhibition was held in autumn,” he says. “I chose the shapes by using these criteria: the pure interest of the shape and humorous relationships between black and white.”

In the monochrome, high contrast world that Ikki creates, visual information including colour is pared back to the extreme, meaning “just the beauty of a shape becomes the beauty of a whole visual,” he says. “I’m always attracted to pursuing a beautiful appearance and atmosphere within limitations,” Ikki adds. “Also I think it is an important process to draw by hand within restrictions that are as tight as possible, and to physically learn beauty of form in order to master basic design ability when you are young.”

As well as a chance to experiment conceptually, the series is also a smart move from Ikki to show his skills in terms of fabric design. “I’m interested in the possibility of graphic design in the field of interior design,” he says. “But just being interested does not lead to work, so I needed to present some prototypes.” We hope that Ikki's savviness pays off, as some home furnishings inspired by this series is something we really need in our lives.

GalleryIkki Kobayashi: Between Black and White

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About the Author

Laura Snoad

Laura is a London-based arts journalist who has been working for It’s Nice That on a freelance basis since 2016.

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