The adult world is a world of stress. It’s full of responsibilities, tasks, and pressure that test our emotional stability. Nobody warned us when we were children; at that time watching cartoons on TV and playing with our toys was much more important.
Nana Soeda (@wei_wawa) has decided to mix both life stages in her art: she creates stuffed animals, figures, and cartoon creatures inspired by our childhood, but who, like us adults, feel anguish, anxiety, and frustration.
These characters have returned from our memories so that, when we see and touch them, we channel that negativity through them as if they were our avatars. Maybe if they are suffering, we don’t have to.
I had a chat with Nana about her job, about a stuffed animal named Kuraudo-kun (chan), and about the value of cheap things.
Chorareii: First, introduce yourself, please!
My name is Nana Soeda. I was born in Tokyo in 1994 and I still live here. As an artist, I usually create 2D works and animations. I have a chihuahua called Bambi. I’m a dog lover, especially chihuahuas!
How did you start your art and find your style?
I have always liked to draw and create. I wanted to express something as an artist, so I started working seriously around the time I was 19 years old. I went to an art school in England [Central Saint Martins] and learned a lot, although I later dropped out.
Instead of being funny, the facial expressions of the characters in my works gradually became harsher. This is because I started applying the stress that I get from society to my work [laughs]. Thanks to this I have landed in my current style.
Your characters are more than meets the eye. Since they are animals or creatures made in a cute or childish style, you might think that they are sweet. However, their faces show anger, anguish, frustration. Why is that? Do you feel the same?
In general, I’m not able to convey my opinions or my dissatisfaction well to other people. Even if they say something I don’t like, I can’t answer and I swallow it.
The aesthetic of my characters is inspired by the cheap yet nostalgic toys, signs, and junk found in Japan and across Asia. It’s easy to miss this kind of junk, we don’t take it very seriously. Sometimes I myself feel that I’m valued that way.
Therefore, by daring to show anger with their facial expressions, I draw my characters as creatures that can communicate for me so I don’t have to get angry.
Your art has many shapes: paintings and animations and stuffed animals and sculptures made with televisions. How do you choose the shape of each piece?
I always try to create a space that reaches people in the easiest way possible. If I have to do very serious work, I get nervous when I do it. A lot of people used to touch stuffed animals or watch anime when they were kids so I use them as material.
In your Instagram bio you use a phrase that I find very interesting: “cheap look is the best”. Tell me about this idea!
I don’t think something is more valuable for being from a well-known or expensive brand. For example, a pebble from the park can be incredibly moving to someone. I like people who have their own values without being subject to prejudices.
I personally love the pictures of the seemingly cheap town signboards, or the characters written on junk objects. I perceive their value, which is also the theme of my work, so “cheap look is the best” period!
You have mentioned the signboards, anime, and the cheap figures… but as for other artists, who inspires you?
When I first saw a Taro Okamoto exhibition I thought “artists are great!” I have always admired artists like FAFI (@therealfafi), Miss Van (@vanessa_alice), and Inka Essenhigh (@inkaessenhigh). I have also been influenced by the Disney and Cartoon Network anime that I have been watching since I was a child. When I’m creating, I’m motivated by the music of Sambomaster (@yamaguchi_sbm)!
You worked with artist JACKSON kaki (@kakiaraara) on the inaugural exhibition of Parco’s P.O.N.D. project. How was this experience?
I got to know JACKSON kaki through Instagram, and I was very honored to exhibit in the same space and such a space. Sorry to say so but JACKSON kaki is the best, both as a DJ and at VR creation!
Who is Kuraudo-kun (chan)? I want to know more!
Kuraudo-kun (chan) is a stuffed animal that I have created together with Kotaro Hosono (@dada_kotaro) in a limited number of 30 pieces. It is about the size of a medium dog. Young children can even play by riding on it.
If you look closely at its expression, it also sheds tears like many of my other works. I created Kuraudo-kun (chan) because he wanted it to be with us, who survive in a stressful society where there are a lot of unpleasant and unreasonable situations.
Tell me about your future projects!
My figures will be on sale in mid-July! I would also like to do a long animation.