Equipped with helium, passion and precision, this Japanese artist is motivated to show that balloons can be a form of high art. Part-time engineer and part-time artist, Masayoshi Matsumoto has been taking this unique discipline to the next level. He creates intricate, hyper-realistic designs from every corner of the animal kingdom without using any glue or tape, solely relying on his own self-developed expertise.
Matsumoto is eager to share such knowledge with his followers, and wishes more people were exposed to the wonders of balloon art – as well as posting YouTube tutorials, he regularly keeps an Instagram archive of his temporary creations. Made of delicate materials such as latex and rubber, balloons are a challenging medium to work with. Yet, the Kanagawa-based artist is inspired by the unpredictability of his creative process: “It encourages people to appreciate the beauty of impermanence and to enjoy the moment while it lasts”, he reveals.
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What inspires your art? Why did you decide to concentrate on balloons specifically?
My art is inspired by nature, animals, and the joy that balloons bring to people. I started concentrating on balloons specifically because I found them to be a unique and unexpected medium that allows me to create intricate designs that people might not expect to see made out of balloons.
From butterflies to penguins and scorpions, all of your art takes the form of animals – what led to this choice? Were you fascinated by the animal world prior to your career as an artist?
I have always had a fascination with animals and their diversity, and that definitely played a role in my decision to focus on animal-themed designs for my balloon art. I think animals have a universal appeal and can be appreciated by people of all ages and backgrounds.
I read that you’re originally an engineer – how did your background influence your art?
As an engineer, I learnt how to problem-solve and think creatively to find solutions. These skills have definitely translated to my art, especially in terms of designing and building structures with balloons.
Your designs are very elaborate! Can you talk us through your creative process? How long does it take to make a balloon on average?
On average, it takes me about two days to create one piece. I start by roughly making a few prototypes to refine and improve upon before arriving at the final piece.
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Your art has quite a realistic style – what made you choose this method over more expressionist and abstract designs?
I love the challenge of creating realistic designs with balloons, and I find that people are often amazed at how much detail and texture can be achieved using this medium. While abstract designs can be beautiful as well, I enjoy the challenge of trying to make something that looks as close to the real thing as possible.
Balloons are a very fragile and delicate material to be working with – does this impede your creative process in any way? Is your art a temporary product or can it last for a long time?
Balloons are definitely fragile, which can make the creative process challenging at times, but I also think this adds to the excitement and unpredictability of working with them. While my art is temporary and can only last for a limited time, I enjoy the fact that it encourages people to appreciate the beauty of impermanence and to enjoy the moment while it lasts.
Before encountering your work, I was not familiar with balloon art. Do some people still struggle to consider what you do as a form of art?
Balloon art is still a relatively new and emerging art form, so I do think that some people may struggle to see it as a legitimate form of art. However, I believe that the more people are exposed to the creativity and skill involved in balloon art, the more they will come to appreciate it as a unique and valid form of artistic expression.
If you could choose to be one of the animals that you’ve given life to, which one would it be? Why?
If I could choose to be one of the animals I’ve created, I would probably choose the penguin. I think they are such unique and fascinating creatures, and I love how they are able to thrive in such harsh and challenging environments.
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What design was the hardest to execute?
The most difficult design for me was the pangolin.
I have seen some of your YouTube tutorials! Have you ever thought of teaching live classes? Do you wish more people knew how to master balloon art?
While I would love to do live streaming classes, unfortunately I am not fluent in English, so I haven't been able to make it happen.
What message do you hope to convey to your audience through your designs?
When they hear the term balloon art, many people imagine a poodle or such, but I would like people to realise that there is an area of this art form that takes time to create complex works too.
I can’t wait to see what the future of your art will look like. Do you have any other project in store?
I don't have any specific new projects in the works right now, but I hope to continue creating various pieces in the future.
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