Yuichi Hirako

In fantasy forests, plants, humans and animals exist as equals.

Yuichi Hirako (he/him) was born in 1982 in Okayama, Japan. He now lives and works in Tokyo.

Life

Hirako has been making art since childhood. He would draw manga and create buildings from cardboard and tape. A shy kid, he often collected insects or went fishing by himself. Art became an expressive outlet. “Perhaps I was immersed in my art to maintain my identity,” he says.

In their words

Many people look at Hirako’s work and consider it “cute” or “pop". But the artist doesn’t necessarily agree. “I don’t think it’s cute. It’s about the more serious and dangerous things that are happening to the planet. For me, great art always seeks to change people’s minds.”

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Practice overview

Yuichi Hirako explores plants, animals and humans. Environmental research is key. He looks into historical data, literature and internet resources. What he finds informs his drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations. Canvases with swirling acrylic brushstrokes depict fantastical forests – seen as sacred in Japan. Sculptures are made from fibreglass or wood. Many works centre on the ‘tree man.’ He has the body of a human, face of a tree and deer antlers. The artist sees the character as representing a connection to nature.

Hirako’s inspirations include Shintoism, animist philosophy and the idea of Deep Ecology. He's interested in the intelligence of plants or animals – not just humans. These contribute to a personal belief in the inherent value of all living things. As such, the artist sees the visual language of nature as a tool to represent deeper meanings. “​​Happiness, ideals, pessimism, cruelty, chaos, indifference, enthusiasm, permanence and demise.” Hirako’s works blur the boundaries between human and environment. In the process, he disrupts ideas of ‘natural’ hierarchy.

“I am trying to portray a middle ground between nature and society, people and plants, the past and the present.” Yuichi Hirako