Art and graphic design mingle and interweave throughout the work of Japanese artist Mirai Shikiyama. A study, or a series of studies in dichotomies, Shikiyama composes work based around reality and fantasy, the tangible and intangible around us and history and modernity. In his late 20s, youthful and articulate, he only returned to Tokyo after spending the majority of his life in the U.S. Sometimes labeled as a 3DCG artist, Shikiyama’s career is going stratospheric as he is set to become involved in several huge projects over the next year.

I meet with Shikiyama at a coffee shop in Tokyo’s burgeoning Toranomon area one rainy night in October to discuss his background in art, his experiences of working with the legendary art director and graphic artist Yoshirotten and his upcoming, and debut, solo exhibition, “Raw and Theory,” at Harajuku’s UltraSuperNew Gallery. 

Blue Two Circle by Mirai Shikiyama

Can you tell me about your background and relationship with art?

A lot of my artwork is inspired by Californian vibes. Vivid colors and I like the culture too. At the beginning of my career, the reason I went to California was because I liked technology. My parents gave me a computer when I was 11. I liked to play on it and wherever I went I could use the internet and connect with everyone. That was my first experience of technology. As I grew up, I thought of engineering and went to community college and studied computer science and programming, but I was also interested in doing something connected with art. So, I started to think of ways of connecting technology and art. 

Then I went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where a lot of Pixar employees graduated from. I studied computer graphics, but I was also learning another kind of software at the same time. The university was teaching a more traditional style, so I studied a lot of other things by myself. I learned a lot from searching on Google, looking at videos on YouTube and reading. My kind of computer graphics isn’t like the more traditional approach. I think that’s my strong point. 

I wanted to create a new style, maybe inspired by cubism or surrealism. These kinds of artists involved in movements like that broke through to another level, to find a new style and that’s what I’m trying to do with this exhibition. I don’t want people to just think that’s CG. I want to find something new. 

So, I think if we talk about what inspires me, then I would say something like cubism and 19th century art. I like learning about that period mixed with my own modern style.

I came back to Japan during COVID-19, about three years ago, and could do my own work and walk around the park and listen to music, then focus on my artwork. 

Profile by Mirai Shikiyama

How did you begin working with Yoshirotten?

I began working with him after meeting him a few times and eventually showing him my work. I’ve been working with him now, at his company, for about two years. 

You did an exhibition at Haneda Airport called “Pathway to Experience.” What was that like?

I worked with curator Eleanor Ford on this for the first time. Her company approached Yoshirotten’s company. I knew Eleanor as we had met each other in a few nightclubs and knew each other as friends. The project was an art project for Haneda Airport and it was decided that I would do it. So, Eleanor and I started working on it and she did the creative direction. She also made the concept of people in an airport with people crossing the world. That was the basic concept. 

It was an interesting approach as we picked the colors first. It’s very human and primitive to be attracted to colors. Then we had the idea of time: morning, afternoon and evening because airports are 24 hours. People see sunrises or sunsets, so everyone can relate to these times depending on when you travel. And we thought of monoliths as spiritual beings. I thought of a balance between fantasy and reality, so that’s why we put on the window because it’s an airplane and people can see everywhere. 

Pathway to Experience

Your upcoming show at UltraSuperNew is called “Raw and Theory.” How did that come about?

Eleanor asked me to do the exhibition at UltraSuperNew. It excites me as I want to begin my art career. I don’t just want to be known as a designer. I want people to ask me about my art. Yoshirotten has been a great teacher. He has a great style but also works as a successful art director. 

All my artwork is made on computers. My exhibition is called “Raw and Theory” because raw is like a physical material and theory is because computers are based on logical theory. But I want to make more borderless art between real and fantasy. The name also came from the experimental Los Angeles club, Low End Theory. Each artwork is named after music I listened to when I was working on the artwork. 

Mirai Shikiyama: “Raw and Theory” from October 24 to November 2 at Ultra Super New Gallery.

More information on our event calendar.