Hana Watanabe: Visuals of Light and Water that You Can Feel But Never Grasp

Like memory or time, the visual artist expresses in her images that the most important things cannot be grasped, but remain.
One of the pieces of Hana Watanabe’s first solo exhibition, «Hikaru Ame» («Shining Rain»).

In Hana’s universe, everything is ethereal. You can touch what you see, feel it on your skin, hear it; but it will slip through your fingers. In her images and videos, what’s material is ephemeral. It will disappear, leaving you only an echo of the sensations that it transmitted to you. Like evaporating rain, the heat of a dying flame. Like a pleasant dream that you forget when you wake up.

Hana’s portrait at her exhibition «Hikaru Ame» at Banshan Gallery, Setagaya, Tokyo. Photo: Shuohan Yuan (@oshitori_ball).

Hana is a visual artist and videographer from Tokyo. At 22, she just graduated from Musashino Art University, but long before that she was already an active part of the creative scene in Tokyo. She is one half of the Tamanaramen project, where her sister Hikam contributes the sound and Hana the visual. Together, they create that perfect harmony that can only be achieved by those who share ways of feeling the world from the same genes.

Hana Watanabe’s cover artwork for Tamanaramen’s «Sour Cream» album.

Hana is also VJ. In the parties in which she participates, she manages to create a visual atmosphere that captures you and at the same time frees you. Hana’s projections seem to spring from the sound. This happens because she herself, in her creative process, is constantly inspired by music.

Hana Watanabe’s own personal logo.

Hana has been an inspiration when creating Chorareii. That is why she was the one who designed the logo for the magazine and that is why I wanted to pose her these questions.

Chorareii: Your visual imaginary is very dreamlike, there is a lot of light, water, organic forms … where do you find the inspiration to create?

I’m fascinated by how the textures of liquids and light behave. When you touch them they give you a unique feeling, but at the same time, they make you aware that you cannot grasp them, apprehend them.

Topics such as memory and time are essential in the background of my production. My memory is vague and I cannot retain it, but it is there, like a spilled liquid or a light that I cannot grasp. Without knowing it, such abstract themes can be my source of inspiration.

Hana Watanabe’s cover artwork for Tamanaramen’s «Gate» single.

At the end of last year you had your first solo exhibition, ‘Hikaru Ame’ (‘Shining Rain’) at the Banshan Gallery in Setagaya, Tokyo. Later it was seen also at the Spread club in Shimokitazawa. How was this experience?

It was my first solo show, I was nervous to see what would happen! I was glad that more people turned out than I imagined. It was a really enriching experience because the work is only completed when someone sees it.

Also, I was invited to Spread’s 2020 New Years’ party by promoter Kaiho and was able to display my images in the club space. I love Spread so it was a cool and special experience. However, looking ahead, I learned that a club, because of the lighting, is not the ideal environment for the exhibition.

Hana Watanabe at her exhibition «Hikaru Ame’ at Banshan Gallery, Setagaya, Tokyo. Photo: Shuohan Yuan (@oshitori_ball).

Besides being a visual artist, you are a VJ. I get the feeling that the VJ figure is more and more present at parties in Japan. What can a VJ add to the party experience?

The VJ brings nuances that visually complement the sound. When it comes to VJing, the intention is to hurry and show an image with the same speed as the sound flowing in space.

I think the VJs in the clubs have a greater sense of unity with the crowd, in the sense that they share the same visual language as the people present.

Also, personally, I like that there is a place to look at when I have free time during a party!

Hana’s VJ session at Spread’s party Texture, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. Photo: Noa.

What do you want to contribute to DJs or artists with your visual creations, and what inspiration do they bring to you with their music?

In visual terms, I would like to be able to capture the unique details and characteristics of each artist and help them expand their musical worldview. Music has always been a great inspiration for my production. Rather than producing an image from scratch, it seems that listening to the sound will guide you to do so naturally.

Hana’s design for Tamanaramen & ZAH’s single «Sennyo».

You are part of the Tamanaramen project with your sister Hikam, creating all the visuals like cover artworks, projections for live performances and music videos. How do you work together? What is your process when creating?

For most Tamanaramen projects, images are created after the music is finished. By listening to the music of my sister Hikam, I will gradually develop images of the landscape and the sensations that come to my mind. Since we sisters see and share similar experiences on a daily basis, it’s very easy to also share the vibrations and feelings of anything that is difficult to verbalize.

Tamanaramen video ก₍⸍◕ㅅ◕⸌₎ค:・:・゚✧ (¸.·’* (¸.·’* directed by Hana.

How would you describe the visual universe of Tamanaramen?

Transparent, bright light, you try to grab it but it escapes, fluid, without fear of freshness.

In addition to working on your visual art, you have also created logos such as that of Chorareii or the Avyss Gaze project from Avyss magazine. You have designed titles for Spur Magazine. What does participating in these projects give to you as a creator?

Logo and title production is always exciting. It’s fun to just think about the shape of the letters. I’m glad that more people get to know me when I’m involved in this type of production, and that I can do something that is a little different from my usual production. It’s refreshing, it reveals a new “me”!

Avyss Gaze project logo for Avyss magazine, designed by Hana.

A bit of self-promotion: tell me about the Chorareii logo.

My lovely friend Noa, whom I admire, asked me for the logo of her new magazine Chorareii. The name of the magazine has to do with crying and joy, I was very moved when Noa explained what it means!

It’s fun, it looks like a balloon, but at the same time, it has tears as a concept in its essence. I did it gradually while interacting with Noa. I really like the result! And I support this magazine with all my strength!

Chorareii vertical logo designed by Hana. Image: Noa.

I know you are a true fan of music, I see you often at parties in Tokyo.  What is your favorite party in the city?  And what music are you listening to lately?

I like the Local World party. The aesthetics of its creator, Meltingbot, always transmit a lot to me. And it’s great for dancing! It’s always fun to go.

I also really like the parties of the Ether and Speed ​​collectives. The musical genres they choose are always incredible, they make each individual feel released. The attendees are very young and full of energy. Both collectives have an attitude of continuing to challenge the established which is very inspiring.

The music I’ve been listening to lately is IDM, trap, and Hikaru Utada’s new song for Evangelion.

Hana’s VJing tool. Photo: Noa.

What are you working on now? 

I can’t give details yet, but something I’ve done will be shown in Shibuya around March. I’m excited!

Follow Hana Watanabe on Instagram (@hanargram) and Twitter (@h4na807)

Follow Tamanaramen on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter

Proofreading: Jasmina Mitrovic (@negi_hime).

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