A girl lies on her back in the middle of an empty street crossing; another throws a paper plane from the balcony of an industrial building. They’re alone in a city devoid of people, surrounded by concrete and metal. Empty car parks, functional pipes and tubes clinging to outside walls, high-rises and half-finished building sites – Shiori Fujioka’s Tokyo is an urban dreamscape, a far cry from the bright neon lights and dizzying colourful commerce that we usually associate with the city.
The illustrator, who is originally from Yokohama, now lives in the Adachi Ward of Tokyo. “I live in the city and I want to paint what I see and feel,” Fujioka says. She’s liked drawing from a young age, and began learning how to illustrate professionally at 18. Now she creates her cityscapes using a mixture of watercolours and acrylic gouache, a process that results in beautifully faded, whimsical illustrations with colours that have the quiet intensity of a city at dusk. “Tokyo is filled with new buildings that will be built soon and will be forgotten. I feel beauty in the buildings that change in a matter of seconds,” Fujioka says.
The artist has a fascination with unusual ways of framing the city – such as in her picture of a woman walking past an excavator, or a rooftop view of two ordinary residential buildings against a glowing orange sky. Her work elevates mundane buildings and street scenes, turning them into gentler representations of the Japanese capital.
Fujioka’s favourite places in Tokyo are Omotesando and Shibuya, and she says she draws the places that catch her eye while walking around the city. She works from photographs, which might explain the snapshot-like quality of her work. “The scenery in Tokyo is easy to express through my use of colour,” she says. And it’s the colour as well as the stillness of her images that evoke a wistful sense of a simpler, softer Tokyo that exists somewhere hidden from the technicolour technology, congested streets and busy pavements.
This story appears in Issue 4 of Culture Trip magazine: Art in the City.