Brought to life through connection
Après-guerre Reissue Vol.4
Photos by Koki Matsunaga
ties can make special things
「the relationship between the perceiving and the perceived」
ISSAY (Der Zibet、KA.F.KA、ISSAY meets DOLLY)
Toru Nogawa (Artist)
If you’re a fan of ISSAY, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen Toru Nogawa’s art with him featured as a model in them. Those pieces are not meant to be portraits of ISSAY, but rather of someone else. Someone who isn’t iSSAY. What was the process that led to the creation of these works? This dialogue session will follow the collaboration between the artist and the model.
―― Were you acquainted before you asked him to model for your art?
Toru Nogawa (N): I’ve known him as an artist since my teens, being a fan of Der Zibet.
ISSAY (I): And then, we got to know each other through a mutual acquaintance.
N: And then, when we were drinking at an afterparty in a live house after a show, I decided to shoot my shot and speak to him about modelling (wry smile). Because his style and vibe were just perfect for the theme I was going to paint with.
―― Come to think of it, has ISSAY-san ever been an art model before?
I: No, probably not. I don’t think so.
―― I would think that there were many opportunities for you to be in photoshoots, but how did the conversation about being an art model go?
I: I was very interested because he’s someone who is capable of painting absolutely fantastical art. In the case of photos, whatever’s in the environment you’re taking photos at will also show up in the photo, right? But that doesn’t necessarily happen in a painting, and I thought that would be fun to look forward to, so I was more than willing to be a part of it.
―― Does Nogawa-san have a theme in mind before looking for a model who fits it?
N: That is indeed how I create. I think it’ll be easier to consider this from the perspective of a theatre play. [The character] I asked of ISSAY-san back then was Siegfried, a protagonist from Richard Wagner’s opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen. It’s as good as me casting ISSAY-san in the role of this character. Another theme I had in mind at the time was Dracula. A vampire. A vampire aristocrat known as the Count from the era of black-and-white film.
He in the paintings who is not ISSAY
―― What’s your process when you’re creating the actual piece?
N: The standard procedure would involve the model posing in front of the artist, but ISSAY-san is of course a busy person which means that it would be difficult to do it this way. So he prepared the outfit, took photos for me in a studio and I drew based on what I received.
―― Did you discuss poses for specific scenarios?
N: I picture them in my head, so I think it’s similar to how one would stage a play. Whether it’s Siegfried or the vampire, I’m painting them based on the same person, ISSAY-san, so he has to become someone else entirely in the painting. His response to my requests was tremendously potential-filled. He really turned into a whole other person. It only really hit me later just how amazing a performing artist I asked to do this for me.
―― Do you imagine yourself as this character, or rather, embodying it?
I: I go into it with a simple posture. Like, since this is the type of scenario it is, this is the posture that would fit. Meaning it’s better if I position this leg a little further in front, for example. To compliment that, my left leg will end up like this, but would it be better if my legs were closer together? That’s the kind of thought process that goes into creating a detailed posture.
―― I suppose your pantomime experience comes in handy here.
I: Indeed. Pantomime may have been most helpful.
―― What were your thoughts about being cast as Siegfried and a vampire?
I: I hope it’ll be alright (dry laugh). And, since I was selected by the artist, I suppose there’s a good chance it’ll be fine. I think it doesn’t matter how he perceives it, as long as he’s able to bring it out through me.
N: I wrote an abnormally long email for our very first discussion (lol). What I pictured only existed in my mind and I wanted to share that with ISSAY-san, so I think I set the scene for him by writing something like a short story. For my Siegfried (※From W.R.Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen) piece, he doesn’t actually have a sword on his person but I requested that he posed in a way that suggested he was holding one. It’s pretty much a pantomime. And at the time, I also wrote an essay with details like the general length of the sword the character was supposed to hold, and descriptions of this locale that only I have a vision of, like how there’s a Greek architecture-inspired column in the back. From the second request on, ISSAY-san had kindly grasped my tendencies in my art, so I didn’t have to be as detailed anymore.
I: Since then, if I asked, “How’s this?”, for example, he’d just say, “More like this,” or something of the like.
N: I’ve been requesting images from ISSAY-san for a lot of my work in recent years. So doing it this way is better (lol).
―― How did you feel when you first laid eyes on the artwork that was created through such a process?
I: It’s difficult to put into words, but in a nutshell, like, “Whooa…”. “So this is how it turned out.” While there’s no doubt that I’m present in his world too, I couldn’t have ever imagined the extent of its depiction. Because my world is more indistinct. And this has taken shape as something beyond the world I imagined. What made me happy was seeing how [the character in the piece] was obviously me, but it wasn’t me. I was really happy about that. He painted here what he saw through me.
―― I believe people who know ISSAY-san will be able to tell that he’s the model but this isn’t a painting of ISSAY-san, right?
N: If I were to do a portrait painting, I’ll probably have to paint ISSAY-san as he is. On the contrary, what I hoped to do was see how much of ISSAY-san’s inherent personality I could carve off.
―― So since then, you’ve been making paintings of different themes and settings.
N: To me, The Picture of D (Dの肖像 / D no Shouzou) is a mystery to be solved but I told ISSAY-san that it’s based on The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray’s first initial is D, just as Dracula’s first initial is also D. In addition, something visitors to my exhibitions mentioned to me was that Der Zibet also starts with D. They commented the three D’s were brought together in this piece, so it’s a painting that I’m also very happy with. It’s a double-image piece of Dorian Gray along with a particular sort of immorality that is drawn from vampires, right? From this point, we can increasingly say that [the subject] isn’t entirely Dracula and what I painted is a marquis of darkness, an immortal undead king of ISSAY-san’s and my making. Dracula has a variety of appearances but he’s described as a member of the aristocratic class of marquis in mainstream European stories so this series actually leans closer to the original. From then on, I started to leave the details to him.
―― How did ISSAY-san carry out your part of the work?
I: Take, for example, this pose. I’ll move my body while thinking about factors like, to what extent can I exhibit an air of reclusiveness, or whether this character really considers themself to be alone, or what this person might think if another were in their presence, and things like that.
N: Since then, ISSAY-san would move and adjust his poses while I kept clicking the camera shutter. I feel that doing this gives the piece more depth than before. There’s an interesting element that comes from the lack of a specific target here. Through this method, that which is naturally unique to ISSAY-san would be incredibly apparent in the final piece. But that’s not the ISSAY-san we personally know. It’s the ISSAY-san who becomes the gaze of the character in the piece. Which puts us in a similar position as the audience who watch ISSAY-san when he performs on stage. That’s why I can look at the art more objectively. And that’s a good thing. The method I use is a classic technique of the old masters, so the painter has to remain calm too. Instead of wielding the brush in a subjective state of mind, I have to paint with a somewhat analytical perspective, as if I’m critiquing a painting done by another. That’s why it’s very good if I can look at a painting objectively.
Turning Der Zibet’s song into a painting
―― And after that, the theme that you chose to work on was Der Zibet’s song.
N: As a painter, when I watch their concerts or listen to their albums, as long as text or words or music are present, pictures will come to mind. So I mentioned that something like this came to mind and asked if it was okay for me to paint it since it was based on a Der Zibet song.
I: And I said, please go ahead (smiles). I appreciate it.
―― So you wanted to create an artwork of an image that came to mind from a song.
N: Of course, it’s not exactly the same as the lyrical world ISSAY-san writes about. Instead of tracing an artist’s work from the perspective of a third party experiencing it, what I feel I’m doing is closer to traversing the path carved out by their work and weaving yet another story out of the leaves and branches that I come across.
―― What’s it like having a song by your own band turned into a painting?
I: It’s a strange feeling. But it makes me really happy, though. Like, ahh, so this is how it turned out. I have my own idea of what it might look like, right? When it’s released from Der Zibet’s control and turned into something that comes from Nogawa-san, it’s really refreshing for me to see what a great piece he’s made of it. I was very happy.
N: I didn’t notice at the time, but I just realised something. Thinking about it again, it’s a strange order of events for me to ask if you’d be willing to model and feature in this painting even though you’re singing in Der Zibet to begin with.
I: That work was actually done during our concert, right?
N: Ah, right.
I: Without me singing (dry laugh). It was really interesting though, wasn’t it? To me, I think the person in SISTER ROMANOID is kind of bubbly, somewhat crazy. This was brought with subtlety so I liked that. And it’s clearly got something that leans towards romanticism, doesn’t it? I love that a lot.
N: This isn’t an illustration, to begin with, but a world that I believe only the people present at a concert and people listening to this song possess. And [this painting] is just one of those [worlds].
I: Meaning that it just so happened that Nogawa-san opened this door, y’know?
N: It’s something like a parallel world, see? Following that, I’ll paint with a more confined essence from the lyrics. The most recent piece was Gekka Bijin which features the marquis of darkness. I overlapped the characters from Ein Dunkler Markgraf with Der Zibet’s Gekka Bijin.
―― In other words, you’ve arrived where your two worlds converge.
I: It’s like some kind of reaction occurred.
―― Will you continue to count on ISSAY-san as a model for your paintings going forward?
N: I’m thinking of starting a Der Ring des Nibelungen series alongside the marquis of darkness in 2017. I’ll also be holding an exhibition in November at a private gallery in Paris which is owned by the chairwoman of French automotive company Peugeot. Seeing a painting with ISSAY-san in a gallery located in a European cityscape is certainly fitting, isn’t it? That’s what foreigners will see.
―― It sounds like you’ll be creating many more pieces in the future.
N: Right now, I’m just listening to all the Der Zibet CDs I have (lol).
Vocalist in Der Zibet, KA.F.KA, ISSAY meets DOLLY. With an unparalleled presence unrivalled by any other artist, his charisma draws an impressive following. He has upcoming live events on February 19 at Kichijoji ROCK JOINT GB and on March 25 at Shibuya GLAD performing as Der Zibet.
OFFICIAL HP: http://derzibet.com/
■Nogawa Toru PROFILE
An artist who creates unique fantastical worlds with oil painting. A member of the International Fantastic Art Association (IFAA) and Fondation Taylor, Paris, France. His works have been exhibited in shows at locations like Ginza’s SPAN ART GALLERY. Planned activities this year include a two-person exhibition at SPAN ART GALLERY in autumn, an exhibition in Paris in November, and other vampire-themed group exhibitions.
OFFICIAL BLOG: http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/eden_gallery
OFFICIAL Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToruNogawa