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Artist Spotlight - Hanako Mori

First, give is a short introduction!

My name is Hanako Mori and I’m from Tokyo, Japan. I’m a class of 2018 TUJ graduate, I’m technically still a student, but only have my senior exhibition left to complete my degree.

Describe briefly the work that you do.

My art practice is split in two. For my fine art work I’m a painter, mostly working in oil paint. When it comes to that medium, I first picked it up in class. I went through some really intense growing pains as I’ve found it too time consuming compared to acrylic which I had more experience with. After a while though have grown to like it, especially how well-blended and air-brushed my subjects look.

My second project focuses on an original character called Cornhead for which I’ve explored variety of mediums from ink pen, acrylic to crafts. I create Cornhead merchandise like pillows, keychains or stickers.

How did you get introduced to your craft?

I started at TUJ as a Communications Major, since I was worried about my job prosectives if I were to graduate with a BA in Art. I assumed I could pursue my creative projects on the side, however it proved to be difficult with school assignments and a part-time job. By accident, I met someone who was an Art major at TUJ, and whom I showed my sketchbooks to. He encouraged me to make the switch, so I did.

Do you sketch a lot?

I used to do it a lot! Whenever I was waiting for someone, during lectures or on a train, I would pick up a pen and draw freely. I don’t do it as much anymore, but I still always carry a sketchbook around with me.

When it comes to your oil painting practice, what are the subjects you pursue?

While some of my work can be described as figurative, I see it as very abstract. I work with the idea of subconscious, especially when it comes to memories. As I paint, I try to meditate on personal experiences and how I remember them.

How do you approach your painting process?

I don’t sketch, nor I have a specific image of how the finished piece will look like. I sit down, and let myself get consumed by what I do - eventually something builds up on canvas. If I were to plan things out, my hands would not be able to work in the specific flow I aim for. Once I sit down to paint, I can work for hours - I don’t need to drink, eat or check my phone. Even though there is a point in which I stop working on a painting, my work never fully finished. Just like memories or subconscious, the painting evolves over time.

Let’s talk about your other project, Cornheads. Can you tell me the origin story of the character?

The character is a product of one of my doodling sessions. I created it as I was sketching one day. I’ve drawn this cone-headed creature which for a weird reason, I’ve become attracted to (image on the left is the original Cornhead). The name came from a cartoon I saw when I was very young - there was a cone-headed character in there as well. In Japanese corn and cone is pronounced the same way, and at the time of this sketch, I didn’t know the difference, so I called the creature a cornhead. The original color, yellow, was also taken from the color of corn.

When you work in this project, how does the creative process differ from your oil paintings?

For this one, I already have a specific idea in mind, or a sketch at least. I also try to customize the design for the canvas I will be using, that is if it’s a pillow or a sticker, the design should be a bit different. When I work with Cornheads, my process is more controlled and design-based.

The Cornhead is something very different from your fine art practice. Even though its creation was random, are you able to explain why you decided to continue the project?

In a way it is an extension of me. When I put things in perspective, it makes me sad that in a hundred years or so our lives will be completely forgotten. I guess Cornheads are a way to leave my mark in this world.

Is there a specific mood you’ve got to be in to pick either of your projects up? When do you go for oil painting and when do you decide to focus on Cornheads?

I don’t have a specific answer for that, but for me, having those two projects helps me create balance in my work. When I become tired of painting I switch to drawing Cornheads and vice versa. I also see Cornheads as something more marketable, as I’ve been working on variety of apparel for the character.

Do you have any long-standing influences?

Originally, I was strongly inspired my street art. You can see that in the colors I pick, even to this date. During an Art History class I took, I got introduced to Hieronymus Bosch, specifically The Garden of Earthly Delights. The painting had such a strong impression on me, especially the hell panel, I have been fascinated by his art ever since.

Can you describe your idea of artistic success?

For me, being able to continue making work is very important. Rather it being about money, it’s about having time and means to keep progressing as an artist. Additionally, while I don’t seek fame, I want to be remembered. I think it ties in well with what my practice is concerned with - memories and consciousness.

How do you want your work to affect your audience?

When it comes to my paintings, I want it to be an invitation to a conversation about the topics I cover. I would like to listen to what they think, to make them stop and maybe meditate on them for a short while.

When it comes to Cornheads, it’s very simple - I just want to make people happy!

Since you are technically out of school now, what have you been up to lately? What are your plans for the future?

Besides working on my own projects, I’m a part-time employee of an art gallery. It’s pretty exciting, the exhibition changes every week and I get to meet a lot of like-minded people. I don’t plan too far away in the future, but hope to be able to continue being creative and pursue projects I love. I also hope to stay in Japan and eventually balance family life with work.

Right now, Hanako has an ongoing exhibition in Shinjuku which ends on Wednesday, March 13th. She is showing both her fine art work but you’ll also be able to meet some Cornheads. Hanako prepared some original, one of a kind merchandise for you to purchase. Please visit her and support our local artist in Shinjuku’s Ganka Gallery!

Organ-ism - Hanako Mori Solo Exhibition


Shinjuku Ganka Gallery <Space O>

Shinjuku 5-18-11, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Open: 12:00-20:00 (Last day 17:00)

Closed: Thursdays

Connect with Hanako: website | instagram


Artist Spotlight is a weekly series hoping to promote local creatives from TUJ and beyond. We aim to cover a diverse range of artist from variety of fields, so please follow us to read a new episode every Wednesday!

Contact us to if you want your work to be featured or know an artist who’s a good fit to our mission and you think deserves more attention!

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