BEING HALF-JAPANESE, Mei Kimura was born and raised in Japan before coming to Singapore at age 18 to study graphic design at LASALLE College of the Arts. Despite having a visual arts background back in high school, Mei struggled during the beginning of her studies in Singapore because of her lack of a design background. It was only at the end of her second year where she found a passion for illustration and that had been the focus for her final year project.
What influences Mei is her experience of art in high school where she was encouraged to try different mediums. Now, she frequently mixes her hand-drawn illustration with different types of mediums such as embroidery like those of Izziyana Suhaimi. Her other influences include the works of Iain Macarthur, where she adapts a detailed black and white illustration style. While she laments her lack of personal style, she is inspired by all sorts of designers but concludes that her use of mixed medium allows her to explore different styles and techniques.
Her favourite work is her ‘Trendy Sheep’ series for her final year project in college. Her project was titled ‘Consumer Culture’ which focused on the disadvantages of materialistic consumption. ‘Trendy Sheep’ depicts sheep wearing trendy clothes, emulating the idea that we are blindly following pop culture, like a herd of blind sheep being led by a shepherd.
For this series, Mei hand-drew the anthropomorphic sheep while embroidering the trendy clothes that the sheep donned. Being the first time she had took on embroidery, Mei credits YouTube tutorials for teaching her what she had to know. While each sheep took at least a week to complete, she was nonetheless satisfied with the results.
An extension to ‘Trendy Sheep’ would be ‘Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore?’ which is a book inspired by Jory John and Avery Monsen’s publication ‘All My Friends are Dead’. It describes the abandonment of purchases by the owner after a short-term period of use. This complements ‘Trendy Sheep’ as it describes how consumerist culture is fast-paced, where the turnover rate of trends are extremely high.
Aside from freelance work and being on the job hunt, Mei has started some personal projects of her own. ‘1992’ is a personal recollection of the things that she had remembered as a child. She stays constant to her style of using mixed mediums, as she hand-draws her subjects while colouring them digitally, creating a sense of rawness in her illustrations. With the illustrations, she aims to create different patterns that would appeal to those who empathise with her on recollecting such fond memories.
Mei describes the art and design scene in Singapore and Japan to be rather different. Back in Japan, her art teacher had made it a requirement to visit an exhibition once a week, which Mei had faithfully done with her mother or with her friends. On such trips, Mei would jot down the various works that inspire her and would try to apply such techniques onto the projects that she was working on. Although she no longer attend as many exhibitions as she did back in Japan, she collects many of the free magazines like Catalog and Kult to keep her continually inspired by pasting post-its on pages that appeal to her. She states that it would be difficult to compare two different cultures of art and design. While experiencing it through art exhibitions in Japan, Mei experiences it through magazines in Singapore. However, she emphasizes that it would not matter as long as one could get inspired to continue being creative.
Mei contemplates on her future between Singapore and Japan. While she credits Singapore as being the place that had thought her the basics of graphic design, she hopes to be able to experience working in Japan should she brush up on her Japanese. However, she does acknowledge Singapore as a convenient place to live in and through her volunteering stint at The U Factory: Creative Cultures Showcase, she was amazed by the amount of creativity and incredible works produced by local artists and designers. She does intend to own a design company one day and looking at the ever-flourishing scene in Singapore only pushes her forward.