As a wood sculptor, Yoshitoshi Kanemaki works in negative space. To create his imaginative human figures, he painstakingly carves and removes the unwanted sections from a huge single block of wood. The resulting statues combine realism with darker, surreal imagery, giving us sculptures such as a woman with many faces; a man embracing a skeleton; mirror images of two young men sprouting from the same head.
In a fascinating and detailed photo series, the Japanese artist has revealed how his latest work was made; join us as we follow in his footsteps, and take a look back at some of his other stunning artworks.
Posting the images, Kanemaki explained:
“Showing how I make my work, by posting photos online like this is part of what I do [as an artist]. People can see my finished work at exhibitions, but that doesn’t show them the process that went into it.”
He does not hesitate to show fans his work in an unfinished state, he continues, because:
“Some artists might not want to show people their art while it’s still a work in progress, but in the process of making art we can see the artist’s thoughts, methods and the difficulties they faced along the way. There is a lot more contained in these photos than just showing the techniques used.”
In this photo series posted on his official Facebook page, Kanemaki shows how he made the piece TAYUTA – Caprice, a sculpture of a young woman with myriad faces and expressions. (The Japanese word ‘tayuta‘, like “caprice”, means a state of fickleness, evoking changes in mood or behaviour).
▼ All of Kanemaki’s pieces begin in the same way, with a single hunk of tree. This one is camphor wood.
▼ For this piece, the artist constructed a styrofoam model to assist with scaling.
▼ After sketching out the rough pattern, he uses a chainsaw to roughly cut away the unwanted pieces.
▼ This particular piece is a young girl depicted at 2/3 scale. Kanemaki says that it ended up around the same size as his five-year-old son. Proportions are key, and the artist says he must take care to ensure the enlarged head section doesn’t make the model look like a giant infant.
▼ Because wood carving is art carried out in negative space – the unwanted pieces cut from the block – Kanemaki works slowly and carefully, making sure not to make mistakes. Here, we can see that the head and body still look a little larger than the finished piece will.
▼ Next, the artist begins to work in finer detail on the hands and face.
▼ Paint adds depth and detail.
▼ The detailing on the face begins to take shape.
▼ Check out the texturing on that hair!
As Kanemaki writes: “carving gives the statue life, but coloring breathes life into it.”
▼ The finished piece.
We did some digging, and found more of Kanemaki’s pieces to share with you.
▼ This one is called Kokochi Caprice. As you can see, multiple headed figures are a continuing theme.
▼ Dunamis (a Greek word meaning strength or inherent power).
▼ Shungyou [spring dawn] mentality
▼ This piece is taken from a series entitled ‘Memento Mori’
▼ Shuujitsu [all-day] contrast
You can follow Kanemaki’s work on his regularly updated Facebook page.