This month’s cover design was produced by Enlightenment, led by Hiro Sugiyama, an illustrator who also goes on tour with Towa Tei as a member of Graphickers. With the free magazine called ‘Track’ Hiro has established his own style. Recently, he has been active working on commercials for TBC, Honda HRV, etc.

First of all, please tell us who you are.

My father is a dentist. As a child I naturally thought I would be a dentist. But when I have spent a few years preparing for the entrance examinations after I left high school, I suddenly changed my mind and came this way. After I graduated from the East Art School, I started to work with Flamingo Studio and illustrator Teruhiko Yumura, where I learned everything from the attitude on working to the scene.

How was Enlightenment established?

I started it in 1997 and then designer Tomoyuki Yonetsu joined. I wanted to do things between graphic design and illustration. It’s a kind of place where we can create interesting visuals. At present, there are three members, the third being Mika Ninomiya. I don’t want the office to be a big one. Recently we’re mainly working for advertisements. Like the one for TBC using the picture of Takuya Kimura, one for Parco Grand Bazaar composed of plain images, and the commercials for Honda HRV which is extremely like an analogue.

Is there any difference in the direction between your personal works and Enlightenment’s?

There’s hardly any difference in the direction. Originally the direction of Hiro Sugiyama itself includes many things and the difference is only in the final stage of output. I don’t like being caught up in styles and to be blunt, the concept is ‘do whatever I want to do right now’.

You’ve been publishing a free paper called ‘Track’. How did you start it? And what do you want to tell with it?

I wanted to have an exhibition on paper, not in a gallery. And there’s a great printer called ‘Graph’ and I wanted to give publicity to them.
What I want to tell with this is an attraction of printed matter. An ordinary paper can be transformed into a special one with ink. I also wanted to appeal to everyone what we’re interested in and what we want to show.

You did an exhibition of ‘Track’ at Colette in Paris. How was it received? And how is the reaction from overseas?

After the exhibition in Paris, I was really surprised to get lots of emails from all over the world. I got some offers from some overseas magazines and they said they wanted to feature our works. I again realized the popularity of Colette to put people together from all over the world.

You propose designs with different styles each time you publish ‘Track’. How do you get those ideas? Also how will ‘Track’ be in the future?

Unfortunately, our ‘Track’ will be discontinued. It’s published from vol.001 to 007. We’re trying to do a new expression every day and get stimulations from anything, anywhere. Fine arts, movies, music, magazines, nature, friends, the universe… We’re always trying to switch our creative antenna on and receive interesting ideas from anywhere.

There’s no web site where we can see your works in place right now. Aren’t you interested in the web and moving visuals?

We don’t have our own website to show our works right now. But I think it cannot be ignored today.

I’ve heard that you just started to use computers recently. Have your designs/illustrations been changed by using computers?

I bought my first computer in 1997. I know it’s too late. There’s no change in my way of thinking, but it broadened my way of expression by ten or twentyfold. Especially the way of approaching printing has changed in a big way.

Have you had any particularly impressive works you have created?

Hmm, it’s a hard question. When one work is finished, I always go forward to the next step and don’t look back. I love all the works that I’ve done until now, but I cannot remember what I’ve done in the past. As often happens, when I was looking for a past work I’d be surprised to see what I’ve done in the past. It’s funny.

When you made the cover design for Shift this month, what did you imagine and how did you work on it?

I’m now into this “dotted-line-overlap style’ and I made this cover with it. The theme is something like ‘a man and creativity’.

What are you interested in right now except for the activities of Enlightenment?

I used to be interested in ‘wave motion’ about three or four years ago. It amazed me because I didn’t know about it then, but there’s nothing I’m really interested in right now. But, I’m always interested in something spiritual in a big sense. Last week I went to a lecture meeting of the Dalai Lama and it was really wonderful.

Who do you want to collaborate with in the future?

I met Claude Closky when I visited Paris this February and we talked about doing something together some day in the future. I’m now interested in collaborating with fashion designers.

The last question. Do you have any plans for the near future?

I just started a new free paper, though it has no name yet. I cannot say nothing about the format right now, but it will be published around the end of May. I’m thinking to make 12 different designs for this series. Don’t miss it.
I’ll keep creating something new. The most important thing is to do whatever we want.

Hiro Sugiyama. Born in Tokyo in 1962. After graduating from the East Art School, had been working under Teruhiko Yumura. In 1987, formed Modern Art Group with Ichiro Tanida and represented their video, performance and painting works. In 1989, won the grand prize at Choice Exhibition. Then started Enlightenment Publishing in 1997. The free paper ‘TRACK’ was first published in 1999.

Interview and Text: Taketo Oguchi
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko

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