Artist Analysis: Esm-Artificial

Kenn Sakurai, also known as esm-artificial produces many serigraphy prints.  Serigraphy is a coloured print produced using the methods of the silk screen process.  The cedar cigar sheets print that he produced, successfully demonstrates the process of layering.  When done correctly, multiple and identical prints can be produced in a short and efficient length of time.  As we can see from this particular print he chose to use a thin cedar sheet for his support.  This is particularly unique because he normally uses paper and materials for clothing.  Thus it proves his interest for experimenting new possibilities for his art.  We can see in this print he chose to demonstrate text in a very simple and organic way.  The overall composition of the image is very balanced.  This makes for a very visually appealing image/graphic.   The text is also comprised in a circular frame.  The text then embodies the frame creating a sense of unity between the form and the image.  We can see that Sakurai uses lighter hues of the complimentary colours green and red.  This creates a contrast between the two words and also is thoughtful of his education in colour theory.[1]  The black layer also creates division but because of the forms and identical characteristics of the two words there is still that sense of cohesion and unity.  Since Sakurai uses wood as his support, the image still embodies the texture of the wood.  These are the formal elements seen in his design.

The conceptual elements have to be suggested and perceived because of the minimal explanation of work to be found through research.   In other words, it is almost impossible to find information on the messages imbedded within any particular work of his.  Kenn Sakurai is a Canadian artist that focuses on pop culture graphic design and satire.  He graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.[2]  He likes to “playfully juxtapose images from 80’s pop culture with witty text. His work is loud but gentle, and speaks directly to our chromatic generation very much influenced by notions of love and consumerism.”[3]  He has become quite famous in the art world being featured in multiple art publications.  This rapid growth in popularity did not however affect his humble personality.   He has many hobbies and interests such as fishing, baking, smoking cigars, hockey and last but not least a love for music.  These passions of his greatly influence his work.  Again we can only speculate what his inspirations were for each particular piece due to the lack of information available.  For the cigar cedar sheets print, the subject matter of the physical object was most likely influenced for his love for cigars.   In an interview from, Sakuai lists multiple names of musicians and artists that he enjoys.[4]  By looking at the album art from these artists, a connection to the style in which Sakurai produces art is apparent.  Also the artist can also be seen as a source of influence because many of their styles seem to have rubbed off on Sakurai.  For example The Spoons album titled Collectable Spoons, also uses a circular border to depict the image, like that of Sakurai’s cigar cedar sheets print.  The work of Yoko Ono (Artist enjoyed by Sakurai) creates beautiful and simplistic masterpieces with clever embedded messages and work that is focused on emotion and love.  Both of these attributed of design can be found in the majority of Sakurai’s work.  The style of text (bold and in your face) used in his cigar cedar sheets print is very reminiscent of text used in eighties pop culture.  The 80’s was very bold and organic time.  The colours are very vibrant which could be the reason for the bright colours used in this particular print.  Sakurai though Canadian born is very influence and in touch with Japanese culture.  His parents had moved from Japan to Vancouver after they got married.[5]  From much of his work and travel records it seems that he is still very in touch with his cultural upbringing.  This cultural connection can be evident in some of his work.  You never know his use of a circular design may be taken directly from the Japanese flag.  Though not verbally confirmed, a lot of these conceptual elements can be to be an influence in his work.

There are many common themes amongst his work.  Many of these themes can be seen such as simplistic contour drawings that is demonstrated in his Sensitive Series Prints.[6]  The thoughtful use of colour (colour theory), composition, text, emotion, love, the relationship between text and the image, and comedic intent are all themes that can be seen in the finished product.  Other themes such as eighties pop culture, music, culture, hidden messages, consumerism and reality are embedded in the vast majority of his work.  The two themes that I am captivated to exploring, don’t necessarily involve the finish product of Sakurai’s work.  These themes are developed in the making process.  The first theme is layering.  Sakurai’s favourite work to produce is serigraphy.  Serigraphy’s main concept is printing one colour at a time, rendering (lining up) each one over another to produce the final image.  The interesting concept is how the negative space of each layer selectively reveals the layer behind it.  I personally feel this can experimented with on a larger scale.   The second theme is the relationship between materials.  This relates uniquely to the one artwork I chose, by Kenn Sakurai.  In the cedar cigar sheets he explores printing on surfaces he is not familiar with.  In nearly all his prints the support is paper.  In this case in particular it is wood.  Prints on paper produce a fairly smooth surface, with little trace of the support onto which it was printed.   Light shadows of pixels are often the only trace of printing.  When printing on wood it adds a new dimension to the work, where the paint reveals the texture (grain) of the wood surface.  This relationship between materials and how it can add to the final product is what provokes me to explore this theme.