Sho Shibuya | NY Times | PLATFORM
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page

Interview:

SHO SHIBUYA

The artist's news-inspired work has captured the essence of some of the world's most important events with stunning clarity.

Graphic designer and artist Sho Shibuya's work makes for a different kind of news headline. Often abstract and absent of text, Shibuya's paintings sum up a day's most important event in a way that a crisp line of copy never could. Since mid-2020, the multi-hyphenate has used the front page of The New York Times as his canvas and posted the resulting images to his Instagram account where they spark conversation among art enthusiasts and followers of current events, alike. Platform spoke with the artist about why the news inspires him, how art has the power to inspire action and what he tries to achieve with every painting.

Platform

How do you decide which specific news events to transform into a work of art?

Sho

I rarely make a plan to paint an artwork. After I read articles early in the morning, I paint if my gut tells me I want to share. It has to be something that pokes my soul. I want to encourage people to start conversations.

Platform

The news cycle is incredibly fast, but making art is traditionally seen as slow. How do you make them compatible with each other?

Sho

My inspiration came from On Kawara. He would finish a painting within a day and pair it with that day's local newspaper. I follow the same structure he did. Now, you can publish whenever you want on social media. You don't have to wait for the next exhibition to share your work. You always have a platform.

Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Biden Beats Trump. Sunday, November 8, 2020. After days of anxious waiting and vote tallying, the New York Times joins television networks in announcing that Joe Biden is the next President of the United States.
Platform

What do you think is unique about the way art can respond to current events, and how can art help us understand those events differently from television, newspapers and websites?

Sho

My goal is always to have no caption or explanation needed. I want the visual to speak to the event itself. The uniqueness is easy to catch in your heart, and it’s relevant for everybody. You can probably find a different perspective from an artwork than reading an article. I want to create peace through my work, sharing my sympathy and emotion. I believe simple colors and shapes have the power to influence emotions, and emotions influence actions. It is important to get the facts and understand the news, but I think my work is meant to make people feel the impact of the world beyond just facts and figures. It is similar to the way The New York Times printed all 100,000 names of the people who died from COVID. Art can be a more impactful way of communicating the significance of the news.

Platform

Do you see your art as a way of depicting the newspaper visually, or as a news medium in and of itself?

Sho

To me, I feel it's similar to when the Empire State Building’s spire is lit with certain colors in repsonse to current events. For instance, on March 26, 2021, it was gold and black to show support for #stopasianhate. When I see it, I feel solidarity. It might be a trigger to start further conversations.

Interview by Martin Lerma

Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Impeached. Thursday, January 14, 2021. A week after the Capitol riot event, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice, even though there were only a few days left in his term. The headline was so strong I just wanted to emphasize at the moment I believed he would be removed from office.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
100,000 Deaths. Sunday, May 24, 2020. This was the day the severity of the pandemic set in: 100,000 deaths in the United States.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Palestinian Rights Matter. Saturday, May 15, 2021. An explosion of violence between Hamas and Israel, and the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, including children, have renewed focus on the oppression of Palestinian people.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Marijuana. Wednesday, March 31, 2021. New York State finally legalized recreational marijuana, after having gone back and forth on the details of the law for years.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Taser / Gun. Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Another African American person, Daunte Wright, was killed by the police, and the officer claimed that she confused her taser and her gun. As many people pointed out, that was an unbelievable mistake to make, and even if it was honest, it’s evidence that we’re too trusting of allowing police to use deadly force.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Evergreen. Monday, March 29, 2021. When the whole world was focused on the stuck boat in the Suez Canal. It had incredible ripple effects on world trade. Six days later, it was finally set free on Monday, March 29.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Trump Incites Mob. Thursday, January 7, 2021. Minutes after President Trump gave a speech in which he encouraged his supporters to “fight” and continued to spew lies about election fraud, a mob marched directly from the rally to the Capitol, where they breached security, killed a police officer, and tried to hunt down senators and representatives including Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and even Vice President Mike Pence. It is one of the darkest days in American history.
Sho Shibuya newspaper front page
Black lives Matter. Tuesday, June 2, 2020. One week after the murder of George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations swept the country. It was the first time I painted something other than the sky on a cover.