Ohiana: the many faces of our solitary struggle

Ohiana, who defines himself as a “working-class creator,” has developed a collage bestiary to cope with loneliness.
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Ohiana (@ohiana_summerangel) rebuilds portraits by turning human faces into hybrids with animal features that seem to come from a nightmare, a bad trip, or the hallucination of an artificial intelligence. His images are deliberately provocative and shocking by punk heritage, but despite being uncomfortable, there is something about them that captivates.

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Maybe Ohiana’s modified faces are more honest than the fake posing of the original portraits. Perhaps, unlike us, these pseudo-humans dare to fearlessly express emotions of anxiety, anger, or loneliness. Perhaps we see ourselves more reflected in these beings with crazed faces than in the perfect photos of advertisements or social media. 

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Be that as it may, something happens with Ohiana’s faces that make us can’t stop looking at them. After visiting her first solo exhibition at Domicile Tokyo (@domicile.tokyo), we talked about his art, working-class pride, and band t-shirts as inspiration. 

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Ohiana at his first solo exhibition “Lucha Solitaria,” held in Domicile Tokyo (@domicile.tokyo). Portrait: Omega (@koki.handlethis).

Chorareii: First, introduce yourself and your art. 

Ohiana: My name is Ohiana. I was born in 1985 in Edogawa, Tokyo, and raised in Chiba. I graduated from the Department of Media Arts and Expression at Tokyo Polytechnic University. While in school, I made animation.

I don’t recognize myself as an artist, I just like to create so I keep doing it. I am not interested in what an artist is, I am my own person, and I don’t refer to other people’s attitudes or styles. I just do what I need to do.

The only thing that defines me is that I am a working-class creator. That’s the one thing I’m not afraid of.

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How did you start making art and how have you reached your current style?

When I was in high school, my girlfriend was thinking about going to art school. Then I started to think about going to art school myself. I was dependent on her at the time, so I started thinking about doing something as close to her as possible.

At first, I loved techno and wanted to make music to eat, but I realized early on that it was impossible.

I was fortunate enough to have a professor in my third-year seminar at university, which led me to the collage and animation that I do now.

When I was in college, I watched Matthew Barney’s and Jan Švankmajer videos until I wore them out. 

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«The only thing that defines me is that I am a working-class creator. That’s the one thing I’m not afraid of,» explains Ohiana. View of his exhibition “Lucha Solitaria” at Domicile Tokyo (@domicile.tokyo). Photo: Noa.

In your art, you change the faces of people in vintage pictures, many of them are family portraits where people pose always pretending to be happy. Can we see in your pictures that dark side in us we don’t usually show?

Although I’m not particularly working only with vintage photos, I like old portraits because the hairstyles and clothes are so bizarre that I can create something that packs a punch after composing the face into a monster.

I don’t know if I’m expressing the part of us that we try to hide, but sometimes I think that I might be projecting myself onto the fat or geek people in my works to sublimate my loneliness. 

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I thought your art was made by digital collage, but when I saw your works in real life, I realized you also do actual collages with paper. Tell me about your technique.

I use a PC to compose the faces. Then I print them out on a copy machine and combine them with the collages I make by hand for the background. I like to make things by hand. 

I scan the resulting pieces, adjust the color, etc., and that’s it. 

Artwork for Dawn Tokyo magazine (@dawn_tokyo).

Something in your works reminds me of the images generated by the computer AI software Deep Dream by Google. What do you think about this kind of image created by computers? Do you think that machines can make art?

This is the first time I’ve been told this, but I think it might be true. 

I believe that machines can make art. I think it’s easy to make average art. However, at this point in time, I think that what humans create is superior in every way. I don’t know what the future holds.

What kinds of things, artists, places, etc. inspire you? 

I pay a lot of attention to the graffiti on the walls!

Some artists that inspire me are Jon Rafman, Ben Mendelewicz, NANOOK, Eric Copeland, スポーツガーデンひ, Whatman, and Mat Brinkman.

«Maybe if you are always worried to look beautiful is because you are ugly inside,» says Ohiana. View of his exhibition “Lucha Solitaria” at Domicile Tokyo (@domicile.tokyo). Photo: MoEPiKA (@moe____pika).

In advertising, fashion, or social media, by using filters, or having plastic surgery, people always try to look perfect and beautiful. On the contrary, your images are deliberately ugly and scary. Why have you chosen ugliness?  

Maybe if you are always worried to look beautiful is because you are ugly inside. I don’t know. I’m not a good-looking person but I’m trying to open up about it and love myself for being ugly.

I think it’s okay for people to have many sides to them. It would be nice if we could all accept our flaws and look forward to the future! I think about this when I’m working on my art. 

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Cover and logo for Ryoko 2000 by Ohiana.

You have made music artworks, flyers, and band logos. What is your connection with music? 

I was introduced to grunge music like Nirvana and Silverchair when I was in high school. When I was in college, I was a DJ. 

I went to Senseless Records and 8スタ in Hachioji when I was in college, which had a big impact on me. It was great to see so many good bands in a live studio setting where there was no barrier between the audience and the performers.

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Party flyer by Ohiana.

I like grindcore, melodic punk, death metal, fastcore, experimental music, noise, emo, and hip-hop.The band I like the most is Don Caballero.

I’m not very good at drawing, so it’s difficult for me to draw logos, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m going to keep trying to improve.

You have also a clothing brand, A.C.C. (@a.c.c.17). Why did you decide to make clothes? And what does A.C.C. means?

A.C.C.” means “Anal Community Center.” I came up with it when I had warts and the doctor was playing around with my anus!

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I have always liked band T-shirts and bought them all the time. A.C.C. has inherited the mindset of the band T-shirt. I like printing techniques and was introduced to silk-screening in college. I even won a prize in a T-shirt competition.

I love clothes and the fact that I got a good response when I made them was a big part of that. I am a working-class person, and that is what I am about. I’m proud of that, and I’m doing this brand with the hope that it will inspire other working-class people to do the same!

What parts of your personality are reflected in your art? Are you similar to the animal-humans in your works?

My loneliness is reflected in my work. I have many acquaintances but few friends. I’m also a bit of a hermit sometimes, so that’s part of it.

I don’t think I’m like them, though. I don’t think about it too much.

Cover art for Dengekihime “Ashura V.A.” compilation by Ohiana.

Your first solo exhibition is called “Lucha solitaria,” could you tell me more about it?

“Lucha solitaria” means “Solitary struggle” in Spanish. I often struggle with loneliness in my work, sublimating the feeling of loneliness, working in solitude until an idea comes to me.

I think I will continue to be lonely in the future, but I chose this title because I am determined to continue that struggle until I die.

What future project are you working on or do you have in mind?

I’m going to release a jewelry line with a Taiwanese brand next year. I will also continue to work on my clothing brand, A.C.C, at my own pace.

I’m sure I’ll keep producing.

Ohiana’s first solo exhibition “Lucha Solitaria” will be held at Domicile Tokyo (@domicile.tokyo) until Sunday 12/12/2021, from 12:00 – 20:00.

Follow Ohiana (@ohiana_summerangel) on Instagram.

Follow Ohiana’s clothing brand A.C.C. (@a.c.c.17) on Instagram.

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