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Yuki Nishimoto, Sumi-e Ink Artist on the Rise

Up-and-coming sumi-e ink painter Yuki Nishimoto is currently holding his first solo exhibition in Fukuoka. Entitled “Ryu no Kiseki” (Miracle of the Dragon), the exhibition features around 100 of Nishimoto’s ink paintings. Visitors can also enjoy a massive 30-meter-long dragon painting and a prologue piece in which computer graphics taken from sensors worn by Nishimoto show his brush strokes and body movements superimposed over an actual ink painting.

Originally from Kagoshima, Yuki Nishimoto is an ink painter who works with sumi, the Japanese ink used in traditional calligraphy. He moved to Fukuoka to study art, and was selling his artworks on the street when a chance meeting launched his professional career. A local architect asked him to paint a dragon for a shop, and since this first job, Nishimoto has created numerous works in his trademark bold style. Breaking all the rules, this up-and-coming young artist is now seeing his star rise both at home and abroad, as evidenced by the sale of a live painting he produced at Christie’s Auction House in Hong Kong for HK$85,000.

“What keeps me going is the desire to make my pieces ‘move,’” says Nishimoto, who creates pieces in short periods of intense concentration. As opposed to a painter who spends a great deal of time layering colors to craft an image, no one knows what shape Nishimoto’s paintings will take as his black ink comes to life on the canvas in real time. He proceeds stroke by stroke, but if the piece does not turn out to his liking, he scraps it and starts over, no matter how far along he may be. His process is one of flow, of finding “answers” to the “questions” raised by his ink as he goes along. In short, it’s a one-shot deal. In this way, his work is a direct expression of his emotions in the moment, a snapshot of himself at a given point in time. This is what makes his painting so intriguing.


One experience that stands out for Nishimoto was at an event held to cheer on the race horse chosen to represent Japan in the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. There, he attempted a challenging piece that fused live painting with music and projected images in a stage performance with approximately 20 other people. “Being forced to time my brush strokes was the most stressful part. I was worried that I would detract from the best qualities of the painting, the music, and the imagery. It was a great learning experience. For a group of artists, each with his or her own unique style, to successfully complete a single artwork is teamwork in the truest sense of the word. It was a moving experience,” recollects Nishimoto.


Nishimoto’s motifs have spanned a wide range of subjects from dragons, samurai, and other classical elements to more modern topics like athletes and musicians. He has also collaborated with sporting events and video games, which just goes to show how broad his spectrum really is. “Ink painting is traditional and straightforward, so I keep collaborating with others to see if I can create something new and different. I think this is why people gravitate to my work,” says Nishimoto.

Nishimoto has focused much of his energy on painting dragons, a motif particular to Eastern art. For Nishimoto, dragons are almost like guardian angels, but how he paints them continues to evolve as he visits new places and meets new people. “Ryu no Kiseki” is an important milestone for Nishimoto as his first solo exhibition. It is both a retrospective and a harbinger of things to come. Nishimoto hopes to expose a lot of people to ink paintings for the first time. He wants them to see how something traditional can be turned into truly Japanese—and truly modern—art.

You can see four of Nishimoto’s ink paintings and one of his Echizen ware tobokuga (paintings on a glazed ceramic plates) in shops around Fukuoka. At Wabisuke, a soba shop in Shirogane, the dragon painting that launched his professional career hangs in a lighted display.

The solo exhibition in Fukuoka is the first of what Nishimoto hopes will become a nationwide tour. You can enjoy about 100 of the 400-or-so works he has created thus far. One of these is a live painting that he did at a UNESCO heritage Buddhist temple in Kyoto which will be displayed with projection mapped cherry blossoms, evidence of how Nishimoto combines the old and the new to create a world that is all his own.


The above video offers a glimpse into Nishimoto’s working style – enjoy!

Ryu no Kiseki (Miracle of the Dragon) Fukuoka Exhibition
• 1/6 (Sat.) ~ 2/11 (Sun.)
• 10:00~20:00 (last entry: 19:30) *2/11: 10:00~18:00 (last entry: 17:30)
• Closed: Wed.
• Adv.: Adult ¥800, HS & college student ¥500, pairs ¥1,400 / Door: Adult ¥1,000, HS & college student ¥700, pairs ¥1,600 / JHS & below: Free
• Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 7F Riverain Center Building
3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
• 092-532-1111 (Fukuoka Broadcasting System, weekdays 9:30~17:00)

Art & Culture
Fukuoka City
Published: Dec 1, 2017 / Last Updated: Jan 10, 2018