Creative experimentation, free of constraints and pressure can give birth to the most fascinating results. That’s what happened with Raku Inoue’s Natura Insects series. His intricate floral designs have captured the imagination of his over twenty thousand followers on Instagram. A beautiful example of hybrid Japanese-Canadian culture, we wonder whether this digital work will have a tangible influence on people’s connection with nature.
Hi Raku, can you introduce yourself?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist based in Montreal. I was born in Japan, then moved to Canada at the age of 9. Growing up, I was very much influenced by both cultures, therefore, my work often dips into the two worlds without any concern for a culture shock. Being able to maneuver through different realms early on felt liberating and I think this has a lot to do with my current affinity for multi media art. I love painting but I also love sculpting. Paper crafting has also my interest and so do digital arts. Since I already knew how liberating it felt to be unshackled, never did I feel like I had to choose one particular art form to express myself.
What inspired you to start Natura Insects?
It all started out as a morning creative exercise where I would go out the backyard, get some fresh air and collect whatever I could find to casually make stuff without any pressures of accomplishment. In a work environment, total creative freedom can be such a luxury, so I treasure every moment I can spend doing what I really love when I'm off-work. These creatures bloomed to be the result of this creative drive.
Each enchanting floral composition is signed underneath. The use of Japanese characters gives a distinctly Japanese quality to your work that could also be seen in the meticulous attention to detail. Would you say this was a cultural phenomenon or your personal style?
I think my attention for details comes from my obsessive personality. I mean, I never created to represent a culture nor did I felt like I had to make it my style. A lot of people see my work and dissect everything into the tiniest meanings. Most of the time, I just do as I feel like in that moment; it’s liberating.
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Rather than collage editing plants or digitally creating the Natura Insects, you create small sculptures to then photograph. Why do you prioritise this, arguably more complicated, creative process?
I never did prioritize this. It’s a perception people have of my work. If I can make it without editing it, great, but many of my recent work is digitally manipulated. The White Tiger I did recently is a perfect example; instead of sacrificing countless flowers, I took pictures of the same five flowers from different angles and made a montage.
The digital obsession on Instagram with your representation of the natural world is somewhat ironic. Do you hope to inspire people through your work to enjoy more of the nature around them?
We can always do more to appreciate nature I think, but it’s definitely going to take much more than Instagram posts to really shift people’s perceptions in a long run. If I can somehow contribute in any way, it’s more than I can hope for.
Use of seasonal flowers and respecting nature seems important you. Your materials are often collected, fallen petals or pruned twigs from your own garden. Does eco-consciousness extend into other parts of your life?
I make my own composts and I try hard not wasting materials that I collect. Where I can put an effort to preserve nature, I do.
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Environmental artists Andy Goldsworthy and Martin Hill– who I assume was inspired by Goldsworthy – use their meticulous natural sculptures to advocate for the protection of our planet. Does your work share this political message?
Sometimes I will create to engage a thought process; if I have a specific message, I will try convening that into the work. But more often, I will just create because I just feel compelled to making something cool without thinking about a deeper meaning. Most of the times, people will project their own meanings and interpretations onto my work anyways, and that’s great since people see what they want to see. I think this is why my work is far-reaching and I think it’s really what art is about. It should not know any boundaries.
Some people don’t see the beauty in a stag beetle or a willow spider, but your art invests insects like these with an aesthetic that pleases everyone. Do you intend to change perceptions of the insect world?
I have no intention of trying to change people’s opinion on things. My job isn’t that; my job is to create something that could possibly stimulate a thought-process however and whatever that is.
After originally starting with only insect sculptures in May last year you started creating natural, bark sculptures of animals. Would you consider adding fairies or pixies to your magical depiction of nature?
(Laugha) Perhaps.
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