Circles that Make People Happy

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Yume sits in front of her mural artwork painted on the wall of JR Kii-Arita Station, featuring coral from nearby Kushimoto as a motif. (Courtesy of Yume Matsuo)

By RYOKO OHNISHI

Circle has no corner

Circles has no end

I believe circle can get rid of corners in people’s hearts and softens them.

Circle can lead the world to endless peace.

Human is bound to die.

The world is full of hardship.

I want people to forget their worries and pains at least while enjoying my art.

I want to reach to world peace by tiny pieces of circles.

The above statement was made by Yume Matsuo, a 31-year-old artist when she spoke to a group of art students at a community college in Pensacola, Fla. on Nov. 1, 2017. A Wakayama native, Yume recently debuted as an Invited International Artist of the 45th Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival, held in Pensacola (Florida is a sister state of Wakayama). Yume was the second Japanese artist invited since 1999, when a master woodblock artist from Pensacola’s sister city of Hagiwara (now known as Gero), Gifu Prefecture, became the first international artist for the festival.

Three kanji characters for “Wakayama” are embedded with iconic products and places of Wakayama such as whale, fish, tangerines and Koyasan Temple. (Courtesy of Yume Matsuo)

Yume’s painting style is a collection of small circles, dots and lines. Her work may resemble that of Gustav Krimt, or a piece of a mandala, a manga, or graffiti.

Born in 1986 to an “ordinary salary-man’s family,” Yume grew up with her older sister and younger brother in Wakayama city. She has loved drawing since she was a child and once wanted to become a manga artist. She graduated from a graphic designing school in Osaka but she worked as an “ordinary office worker” in Wakayama city.

After four years, in September 2011, she left her job and went to Ireland to study English. Yume traveled through Europe for a year and half. Then she came back to Wakayama and worked again as an office worker. For Yume, art was one of her hobbies, but drawing was always with her that cheers her up.

“Drawing was my best friend,” she says. “One sunny day, I was sitting in my office, I realized that I was wasting my life.”

Yume quit her job in March 2016 and decided to pursue her career as a full-time artist. “I wanted to enjoy my life.”

The first thing that Yume wanted to do was to visit Miyakojima in Okinawa. She wanted to wear a T-shirt that would show people she is from Wakayama. So she designed a T-shirt featuring the three Chinese characters of the word “Wakayama” consisting of small circles and swirls, embedded with iconic places and products of Wakayama such as tangerines, waterfall of Nachi, whales of Taiji, hemp-palm scrubber, soy sauce, Koyasan Temple, etc.

Yume Matsuo’s artwork that was inspired by Okinawa. (Courtesy of Yume Matsuo)

“It took me three weeks to finish. I posted my T-shirt on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I got some inquiries even from overseas.” Yume’s has over 2,000 followers on her Instgaram page.

Then Yume had an opportunity to take part in the Japan Railroad Kinokui Trainart (Train + art) 2016, where she painted several murals of JR Kii-Arita station in Kushimoto city, Wakayama. The area was not familiar to Yume, so she snorkeled in the ocean and was surprised to see that beautiful coral existed. She took coral as the motif of the design of the murals using her favorite colors, green and blue. Yume continued to participate in the JR Trainart 2017 to keep painting.

Yume’s art career has just begun over the past few years. She still feels too humble to call herself an artist. “Artist is a job title that everybody can say, ‘I am an artist.’”

Yume Matsuo’s made-to-order shoes. She makes them to make a living out of doing my art.” (Courtesy of Matsuo Matsuo)

So Yume calls herself a “nanchatte (pseudo or pretending) artist” on her social media profile. On her business card, which is made of banana paper to support crowdfunding for a Cambodian project, she puts her last name as “Gaka” (painter) and first name as “Matsuo” instead of using her full name. She says, “Real artist means being a taxpayer and making a living out of it, and I allow myself a grace period for the first three years until becoming a full-fledged artist.”

In her lecture at the college, she talked about her philosophy of her work and how she became an artist. In addition, Yume said that having experience as an office worker expanded her ability to deal with people, which helps her grow as an artist. She also emphasized that art is not something that only a rich can afford and enjoy. “Art should be something that one can enjoy in everyday life.”

During the Q&A session, Yume was asked, “Why did you choose to draw circles?” She replied in her Wakayama dialect, “Sukiyakara (Because I love it).”

Yume Matsuo holding a completed “Your Circle” that was inspired by her client Pat Bush, a Sansei Hawaiian Japanese, during the three-day art show held in Pensacola, Fla. (Photo by Ryoko Ohnishi)

The Arts Festival showcased 200 artists selected from among 600 applicants from throughout the nation in the first week of November. Yume sat in her booth and drew circles on a postcard-size paper representing an individual whom she met. This project is called “Your Circle,” which is similar to a portrait but Yume expresses the images of the person with circles, using different colors and sizes. It took nearly 20 minutes to finish a piece of work but it was very popular.

“Definitely, I would like to come back to the U.S. I would like to keep traveling, working and enjoying my life,” Yume smiled.

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