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3-D Goldfish Art: Wait, Those Are PAINTINGS?

Doth my eyes deceive me?

Riusuke Fukahori paints 3-D goldfish so real you can’t believe they’re not wriggling. And I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but the exhibit of his work going on RIGHT NOW at the Sano Art Museum in Mishima is so astounding, that in real life, the fish look more real than in the photos.

In case you doubt me, here’s one up close, and it STILL looks so real I was tempted to shake a few flakes of smelly fish food into the container!

His 3-D works use real buckets, bowls and other containers to hold the clear resin on which he paints the fish art.

Paintings or sculpture? Hard to say!
Excuse me, can we just see this ripply bit with the swimming goldfish and fallen leaves up close?

But how the heckin’ heck does he do it? According to the video showing at the exhibition, the fish are built up slice by slice, layer by layer, on paper-thin consecutive pours of clear resin. I watched him do it in the video, and I’m still UTTERLY boggled!

The main installation in this exhibit is a new work, the “shop” of an old-fashioned goldfish breeder…

It’s a life-sized booth, with so many delightful details, I had to stand there with my mouth hanging open for a good thirty minutes
I’d just been to the Edogawa Goldfish Festival and seen this REAL bucket of goldfish for sale…
…so you can imagine how astounded I was by how lifelike this one is!
I also recognized the trays of the ordinary goldfish children catch at summer festivals for pets…
…and resonated with the owner’s messy desk, complete with odd toys and coffee dregs
And of course I had to closely inspect the bags of fish awaiting pick-up by their new owners, which are joined by exotically realistic fantasy creatures never seen in any aquarium

But that’s not all!

Fukahori also paints gorgeous goldfish on canvas, much larger than life

And because this exhibition is his life’s-work-to-date retrospective, nearly everything he’s painted is on display in the adjoining galleries (where photos are not permitted, so these are from the exhibition catalog).

Starting with the piece that first made him famous…
…we also see how he began to play with movement of both the fish and the container
He started out using sake boxes as fishbowls…
…but soon moved on to “found” containers that are utterly delightful
From there, he moved into large-scale pieces, and put goldfish in ever-more-surprising (and delightful) places
His most poignant work is the pieces he made for survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This is one of them – a paintbrush bucket owned by Yuna Kimura, a little girl who was missing for six years before her father finally discovered her remains and was able to move on. Fukahori says he’d been suffering from the artists’ version of writers block for two years before the tsunami happened, but bringing comfort and hope again to the families that had lost children gave him renewed purpose and inspiration
These pieces at the entrance led me to hope we could procure these delightful bed linens and t-shirts for ourselves, but sadly, they’re one-of-a-kind art too. The gift shop does have nice stuff with goldfish on it, though, so definitely check it out on your way out!

This isn’t my first Riusuke Fukahori rodeo – I’ve been jonesing for this giant show ever since being astounded by an earlier exhibit of his art in Yokohama a couple of years ago. I’m mourning his statement that he wants to move on from goldfish, but can’t help being excited to see what he does next!

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

4 thoughts on “3-D Goldfish Art: Wait, Those Are PAINTINGS? Leave a comment

  1. Hiya Got your new post about goldfish art being on until 2nd Sept. Just arrived at Hiratsuku Museum of art to find exhibition was last year!!! Aarrrgh! Maybe a glitch in a system somewhere. Perhaps let other people know?? Jane

    • I am so so so sorry, Jane! I’ve been traveling and just saw your comment, and you’re right! I am beyond horrified that I posted the wrong dates AND location for this exhibition. If I were in your place, I’d be so mad. I am deeply sorry. It was all my fault you wasted a day going all the way out there, only to be disappointed. I consulted the wrong event poster online when searching for the dates and train stop (I went with a Japanese friend by car, ARG) and there’s no excuse for making a blunder of that magnitude. I will never be lazy about translating event details from Japanese again. Please forgive this awful blunder, and I’m so sorry that my valuable lesson was learned at your expense. From now on, I will triple check all info, and if by some chance you live in or near Tokyo, perhaps you’ll give me a chance to make it up to you? (Or at least buy you a beer?)

    • Thank you! I wish you could have been there to see them in person. Weirdly, the photos make them seem less incredible, because at first glance, they just look like shots of the real thing. On display, behind glass, you really get a sense of reality stopped, and a moment captured in time

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