When Lucas Reis was a kid growing up in Brazil, he had a Japanese friend. That friend was Lucas’ link to a country that has gone on to fascinate him ever since. The illustrator — who is also a creative at Mother — absorbed as much as he could from his playground pal. “As my taste began to develop in music, art, and design, I was always very aware of what was happening in Japan,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I tried to really understand what such a different mindset to my own could produce.”
Years down the line and the fruits of Lucas’ long-term interest can be seen. His latest series, Japonismes is a tranche of hyper-detailed stippled screen prints bringing together various seemingly estranged objects in a visual love letter to Japan, and Japanese culture.
“Initially I didn’t have screen prints in mind. I just wanted to draw," Lucas begins to explain. "Stippling was something I was doing before the trip and the funny thing about it is, although it isn’t something I could find in Japanese history of art, it takes a lot of resilience and craft. I think the process itself connected me to their culture on another level. After I realised I could do really detailed reproductions with screenprinting and still keep the analogue way of doing things, I was very interested in what I could achieve,” Lucas says.
Eventually, he travelled to the country that had dominated his thoughts for so long, and unlike those unlucky Japanese tourists who find themselves struck down with Paris syndrome, it “exceeded everything I expected.” He acknowledges that, “It’s hard to talk about Japan without falling into clichés, but the most interesting thing I saw were the clashes: man-made vs. natural, modern vs. traditional and how they translated in the personalities of people I met,” which might be why he’s used the series to explore a slightly different approach. “I wanted to understand what happens on the other side — when they listen to Brazilian music, or look at Brazilian art.”
A great example of how this translated into the work itself comes in the shape of Formula 1 legend, Ayrton Senna. “I didn’t know,” Lucas says, “that he was a true hero in Japan.” Neither did he know that the dairy drink he used to sate himself with as a child over in Brazil was being enjoyed by his peers 10,000 miles away in Asia. “The small breaches on their hermetic culture and the unique amazing things that could only come from there and that we incorporate in our daily lives,” are what Lucas is looking to examine in Japonismes.
The result is images that are both technically sophisticated and full of feeling — evocations of a world dreamed about from a distance, parlayed into cigarette packets and sports cars. Ultimately, Lucas says, Japonismes is both, “my interpretation of some Japanese icons,” and an ode to some intersections of Japanese influence in my life, either in design, sports, music – or simply in a dairy drink.”
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