Fear Awakens Our Will to Live: the Emo Demons of Masato Nakano

The artist has created a blue universe of tattooed demons and goth angels that hug in bed and suffer when they are alone.
Detail of the “Liberation wandering soulillustration by Masato Nakano (@nakanomst).

In Masato Nakano’s (@nakanomst) illustrations and paintings, creatures from hell and heaven embody human emotions marked by fear.

Using an intense blue color that sometimes drips like tears, or like blood from another world, Nakano puts these creatures in situations that range from the desolation of a graveyard to the intimacy of a cigarette in bed next to a loved one.

“Annunciation” illustration by Masato Nakano. His catholic education has inspired him deeply as an artist.

If these creatures embody our human emotions, the written phrases that surround them — that speak of suffering, the mystery of the soul, questioning who you are — could be our existential thoughts.

Masato Nakano’s universe seems the allegorical reflection of a mind or a heart that feels and suffers intensely. Perhaps it is better to strongly feel the love and the pain, the good and the bad, the light and the shadow, rather than feeling nothing at all.

«I feel like the demons are the people themselves,» says Masato Nakano (@nakanomst).

Chorareii: First, introduce yourself!

I’m Masato Nakano, 25. I’m from Sakai, Osaka, but I currently live in Tokyo and work in an office. I make art using motifs such as angels and demons. It depicts the mental suffering and fear of human beings.

You say that in your art there are angels and demons, but I have the feeling that even the angels are as dark as your demons. Why is that?

My high school experience had a strong influence on my work. I’m not a Christian myself, but I attended a Christian high school in the mountains.

“Dig your own grave” painting by Masato Nakano (@nakanomst).

At this high school, teachers saw me as an ignorant little being, saying things like “He doesn’t know God yet.” This made me feel like they were the absolute justice in the place and I was like a demon threatening their existence. 

In the Bible, the devil is described as an insult to God and a temptation to humans. The demons I draw are my ego, an expression of self-affirmation, and a mirror that reflects others as they are. If I looked like a demon to them, they may look like demons to other people.

«Fear proves that we are alive,» says Masato Nakano (@nakanomst).

The demons you draw often appear in everyday situations: smoking, hugging, in bed … are demons living among us in the human world?

I feel like the demons are the people themselves. The first feeling that humans experience is fear. However, humans have tried to remove the fear with education, and by living in a society. As a result, they keep a demon named “Relief” in their hearts. With the fear of people, my demons shed tears.

Fear proves that we are alive. If you survive being aware of the unknown existence of fear, instead of living because you are afraid to die, you will feel a thirst for life that will show you what to do. This is what you experience when you walk for the first time, touch things for the first time, and feel the first emotions. 

Two paintings by Masato Nakano (@nakanomst) at the exhibition “For Angels and Devils” in Opal Times gallery (@opaltimes), Osaka.

The word “love” appears many times in your work. There are hearts, there is sex and there are romantic moments between your demons. Is love something negative or dark, or on the contrary, is it hope and healing?

The love that appears in my work acts as an antithesis of loneliness. I want to express not only the happiness of love but also the cruelty that love entails.

The color blue is very present in your art. Also, your fanzine is called “Blue Life.” In some cultures, blue represents sadness, but in other cultures it also represents tranquility. What does blue mean to you?

Blue is light and darkness. If you compare it to the sea, the surface has a beautiful blue color due to the reflection of light, but the deep sea is pitch black. 

The color blue has an ambiguous emotional meaning in Masato Nakano’s work.

The moment we open our eyes in the morning, the light shines into the darkness. That makes us get confused as to whether we should keep them open or closed. Everything is blue. 

I feel that blue represents an essential part of human beings: our emotional ambiguity.

The theme of death also appears in your art: there are tombs and graveyards, corpses, murder. Aren’t you afraid of death?

Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to feel death closer. The more you imagine death, the more fear you feel. Fear empowers me. You can get a moment of peace for being alive when you momentarily concentrate your consciousness on death. 

“Dopamine in a certain place” painting by Masato Nakano (@nakanomst).

I enjoy fear. Even in Christianity, people’s fear of God leads to faith. If a time comes when I’m not afraid of death, it will be all about becoming the devil in my work.

Besides the devil, you also draw animals, especially dogs. Why?

What appears in the work is often used as a symbol of emotions. Dogs, as domesticated animals, express loyalty. They are like a picture of its own, a tarot card.

Masato Nakano tattooed this angel on his friend Teji (@teeejiii), who is also a tattoo artist.

Have you ever thought about tattooing your drawings, or getting them tattoed?

Recently, I tattoed one of my illustrations on my friend, the tattoo artist and designer Teji (@teeejiii). It was a very special moment. I felt that my head was clear and my consciousness was expanding. Tattooing fits my way of expression very well. I want to keep my illustrations as tattoos on my body. 

Masato Nakano’s exhibition at The Blank Gallery (@the_blank_gallery.tokyo) in Shibuya, Tokyo.

What inspires you, or what other things do you enjoy apart from drawing and painting? 

Music inspires me, especially club music. By leaving yourself to the sound, you often get peace of mind and hints for creative production. The only thing I want to do other than drawing is music.

How is your own personality represented in your art?

Since I was little, I was a selfish child who loved playing alone. Drawing has a lonely side to it. I often draw the devil crouching alone, I think that’s because I draw it like an alter ego of my own feelings when I’m alone.

Masato Nakano sells clothes, accessories, and fanzines with his illustrations and designs.

What kind of projects would you like to do in the future?

I’m currently working on a project that uses space, so I want to put that into shape. The mind often precedes the body, I would like to continue adjusting and get to work.

Portrait of Masato Nakano by Ryo Takayama (@indydayo_).

You can get Masato Nakano’s art and goods at his online store. 

Follow Masato Nakano (@nakanomst) on Instagram and Twitter.

(⌯˃̶᷄ ﹏ ˂̶᷄⌯)゚

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