Umi Kumano is a Japanese artist from Fukui, who currently lives in Berlin as a guest student at the Berlin University of Arts on a Fukui Prefectural scholarship. The exhibition, Unexpected Stories, was apparently inspired by his experience in Europe, although to me the images are something else entirely. From the bear covered in cream and sprinkles above, to this vastly detailed fantasy scene below, Kumano’s work seems to be something of a candy-coated, surrealist daydream.
Not every image is sweet though. In the scene above there is a demon child taking centre stage, and the pale pastel colours seem tinged with nightmare. Another painting lifts a scene directly from the above image and focuses on what appears to be some kind of wedding. A boat floats next to a bed, a man holds a large lamp, and a teddy bear features again. These images remind me of some of the more involved dreams I have had, where places merge into other places, and people appear out of context. Everything is familiar and yet nothing is quite as it seems.
Continuing the theme of sickly sweet candy, other paintings include a pudding with people on top, a rabbit covered in marshmallow-type sweets and a girl who appears to be burrowing her way into a cake surrounded by Smarties. The girl in the cake seems almost to have fallen asleep there, or perhaps she lies in a comatose state from the sugar.
Surreal is the only word I can use to describe this work, and surrealism is a kind of art I have always enjoyed. Many surrealists have quite a dark edge, and whilst this work certainly does, the dream-like pastel shades somehow distract from any nastiness.
I’m no art critic, but I love this work. To me, this could easily be some kind of comment on the world, with our sugar-coating and the constant overload of sweets and junk. The bear makes me think this could even be some comment on the Japanese phenomenon of ‘kawaii’ which is currently sweeping Europe. Or these painting could simply be the inner workings of a surrealist’s mind. There are stories in these images, where imagination co-exists with everyday objects and figures stand encased in mystery. Images reoccur like bad dreams and nothing is quite how it should be.
I haven’t found out much about the artist, but from a quick Google Images search it looks like this collection of work is quite different to his previous work. Perhaps Europe is having some effect on him? Or he has simply chosen to go in a different direction? Either way, this is modern surrealism at its best.