Nao Tatsumi paints from Google Street View for its neutral gaze

The Tokyo-based illustrator and artist turns to the web rather than the outdoors for inspiration, fascinated by the impartial gaze that Google’s location tool offers.

26 November 2019

Looking at Nao Tatsumi’s tranquil paintings, it’s evident that the Japanese artist has a background, or at least, an interest in architecture. Based in Tokyo, she studied the Architecture Design of Art at the University of Tsukuba and went on to study illustration at Aoyama-juku. Though she gave up on being an architect, the structural presence in her Hopper-esque paintings is clear. Clean horizon lines are punctuated with silky brush strokes and the artist exaggerates the sense of perspective through a gentle colour palette.

Interestingly, Nao very rarely looks to the external world to inform her compositions. Instead, she adopts the “street view journey” attitude, embarking on adventures through Google Street View and painting scenes she spontaneously comes across and finds fascinating. Her love of architecture naturally pulls her towards unusual compositions discovered in the built environment. And though many of her chosen scenes may seem unremarkable at first glance, it’s the mundanity that attracts her. “Even if it’s a place people don’t usually pay attention to,” Nao tells us, “we can still find a trivial scene attractive.”

Her ongoing series Street View Journey began back in 2017, and two years later, the artist continues to find inspiration from the visual location tool. Colouring each image with a signature warm colour palette and masking the light in a muted filter, Nao’s talents lie not only in her exceptional technical prowess, but also in the ability to transform an everyday scene from Brazil, Australia or anywhere else for that matter, into a painterly work of art.


Nao Tatsumi: Street View Journey

Google Street View offers the Japanese illustrator the chance to see the world through a neutral lens. The resolution may not be the best, but at the same time, Nao is able to interpret elements of the composition in her own way, filling in details from her imaginative vision that better suits the calming emotion she’s looking for. She sees Google Street View as “a search for scenery around the world” through “no one’s eyes”, she says. “I can then share this neutral information with people all over the world.”

The neutral compositions, in turn, go from being neutral to subjective through the medium of paint. The objective scene is given a new outlook by Nao’s hands. And when it comes to exhibiting her works to the public, she presents her paintings as a “consequence of looking at something from a subjective point of view”.

She delves into this process using acrylic, gouache and oil paints, each time imagining scenes from abroad in a new light. And having exhibited several shows across her birth country, Nao, who “had always dreamed of having a solo exhibition somewhere else in the world”, has finally made it happen. “I realised it!” she says happily, “I am having a solo show in Barcelona in 2020.” Currently working towards her international debut, in the future, she hopes she can exhibit her street view paintings in each of the places they originate from, finally witnessing the places she’s been painting from in reality.

GalleryNao Tatsumi: Street View Journey

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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