Today we have an interview with Andrew Browne, who is known as Monomizer within the art community.
Hey Andrew, I know you’re a busy guy, so I appreciate that you were able to carve out a bit of time for this interview. Shall we get started?
Yeah, l think I’m all set.
Great. Let’s dive right in — I know you’ve been active in Tokyo’s art scene for quite a while now, and that you already have numerous exhibitions under your belt. However, this was your first time working on a book cover. How did that affect your approach?
The work I’ve done for the last year and a half has been rather graphic design-heavy, with a lot of posters and LP-inspired work, so in many ways this wasn’t a huge leap. But even though I’ve been doing that kind of work, my main focus has always been illustration, and I wanted to use that in this cover.
While considering what approach to take, I ultimately decided that I wanted to do something vaguely like a movie poster. That’s probably not the standard thing to do, but that’s what came to mind. I know you and I agreed that this was problematic — we really didn’t want to show any characters — but I think the high contrast style worked well to minimize that issue while giving the cover a solid amount of impact.
I’m currently planning and working on material for another exhibition in Tokyo, which will feature a slightly different style (simply put, more illustration). That also affected how I went about attacking this project.
Speaking of Tokyo, you’ve been living in the city for nearly two years now. How has that influenced your artwork?
Meeting people involved in the art and music scenes here has helped inspire me to work on new projects.
But just in general, this city is amazing — there are just so many people doing so many different things. So many characters. I get quite a bit of inspiration from the people I see whenever I go out. That, mixed with everywhere I go — various dj events, the sidestreets of Shinjuku and Asakusa, the random places I’ve wandered at night … those experiences really embody what Tokyo is to me. Plus, commercial Japan — things like ubiquitous characters and pop idols — all of that has really influenced my work up to this point.
As long as we’re on the topic of influence, who and/or what are you biggest influences?
If I were to name-drop, Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz, Tank Girl) and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy, etc) are big and seem to be getting bigger as visual influences on my work.
That being said, music and movies have always been a much stronger influence on me. To name some movies that (I like to think) influenced me the most: Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, Triplets of Belleville, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Blind Shaft … as well as a whole list of unknown movies that I was lucky enough to see at film festivals when I was younger. I saw many of these movies when I was 12 – 15 and the impressions they left have stuck with me.
And music — whatever I’m listening to tends to show itself in whatever I’m working on. I tend to imagine scenes and characters that go with the music.
What tracks or albums have you been listening to recently?
I’ve been listening to Flying Lotus quite a bit. I tend to be the most productive with his albums on. And when I need something different, I tend to pick out something that I haven’t heard in a long time — anything from Os Mutantes to Basement Jaxx to Snoop Dogg to Phoenix.
Many people in the west associate Japanese art strictly with manga (e.g. Dragon Ball Z and Naruto) and video games, yet the Japanese art scene certainly isn’t limited to those forms. As an insider, could you tell me what other types of art are popular in Japan?
In some ways I don’t really know what’s popular (laughs). Things like characters — Rilakkuma comes to mind — are big, as are characters like Control Bear from Graniph (think Bape). Commercial things are big, I’ll say that.
I will also say that I know people doing modern ukiyo-e, nihonga (traditional Japanese painting), and ceramics, and those all have surprisingly strong fan bases. I don’t want it to sound like these are popular in a massive way — it’s more that I was surprised to find that there are still plenty of people who appreciate these kinds of art.
You mentioned manga — I do think that manga and manga-inspired art is quite popular. Some are more “art-y” than others, whatever you take that to mean, but the medium as a whole IS big here. Just in a much more normal sort of way when you compare it to the West.
What projects are you working on at the moment, and what do you have in store for the future?
Recently, I’ve been working on a lot of small graphic design projects — posters and that sort of thing, but my primary project is another solo exhibit scheduled for this summer. For that I’m planning a large work in a medium I’m not so familiar with, which means a lot of extra work. I’m enjoying it though — it’s forcing me to push myself in new directions.
Besides that, I have a couple collaborative shirts lined up, one with another illustrator and one with a dj here in Tokyo.
And maybe more book covers?
First, I want to thank you for inviting me to work on this project.
And to everybody reading, you should definitely watch Monomizer.com and the Monomer Twitter and Facebook pages — I have a bunch of projects planned for this year, so those will be getting updated with new work and announcements. I’m really excited for this year.
All images courtesy of Andrew Browne.