Naoto Hattori has built himself an exceptional world, a place so absurd it carries the quiet air of nuclear apocalypse. He has the pleasure of populating it with hybrid creatures and the occasional alabaster- skinned human, exploring psychological boundaries and surreal territory. Working mainly in acrylic, Naoto renders detail and texture in haunting precision.
Like a shamanic Lewis Carroll, Hattori celebrates fauna at its weirdest, evoking the trickery and psychedelia of “Alice in Wonderland” and beyond. His “Shrooms” series is quite impressive, giving wild animals and household darlings a fishbowl effect, while putting them in the body of a mushroom. Their features precious like those of “Shroomouse” and their eyes glassy like “Baby Elephant’s”, Hattori’s animals hold your gaze until your discomfort begins to make itself known. This theme of shapeshifting is present throughout Naoto’s body of work. In his stock of prints, a ballerina wears a panda head, and a giddy tabby cat frolics with the hula- girl kitty genie that just flew out of his bong. I am especially drawn to “Skullshroom” for its Mardi Gras voodoo glee, and “Peek 034”, because it’s dark buoyancy gives me hope. It’s all very trippy, and attests to the plethora of ways one can interpret identity.
Hattori’s interpretations of the human mind portray an ever- changing entity of constant movement, singling out defining characteristics of the brain such as curiosity and consciousness. With titles like “Mind Gazing”, “Stream of Thought”, and “Ideal”, the pieces transform the crown of the head into a representation of what spins inside of it. The hallucinogenics and air of synesthesia that define a lot of Hattori’s work are an example of the psychological complexity that the artist is deciphering. Sometimes, the human head he paints collapses into a thousand glossy bubbles, and other times it hangs suspended over a manicured landscape. However you take Naoto’s imagery, it represents a compassionate understanding of humanity that is missing from the general social conscience.
I think “Fertility”, one of Hattori’s art prints, is an acute representation of at least part of his artistic process. The fertility of his imagination relies on the lack of boundary offered by a blank canvas, and though his work is saturated with imagery, it’s not jumbled. It’s almost like an abandoned amusement park where misfits come for a last hurrah.
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