The artist's news-inspired work has captured the essence of some of the world's most important events with stunning clarity.
Interview by Martin Lerma
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.
How do you decide which specific news events to transform into a work of art?
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.
The news cycle is incredibly fast, but making art is traditionally seen as slow. How do you make them compatible with each other?
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.
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?
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.
Do you see your art as a way of depicting the newspaper visually, or as a news medium in and of itself?
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.