“… Everyone has memories of sweets, don’t they?”
In Japan’s kawaii culture, there is one artist who can be considered a pioneer of contemporary confectionary art: after graduating from Tokyo Zokei University in 2003, Watanabe has been pursuing his own unique style of resin whipped cream and candy art. Drawing on the culture in which he grew up, Mr. Watanabe meticulously creates one-of-a-kind works of art using only his delicate hands and a piping bag, reimagining the works of the Western masters. Her whimsical sculptures have been highly acclaimed both in Japan and abroad, with international exhibitions held in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Turkey.
In this interview, we spoke with Mr. Watanabe about the origin of his work, what his work means to him, and his vision for the future. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Table of Contents
Sweet Island by Osamu Watanabe
Art Inspired by My Childhood
When did you first develop your style of resin confectionery art?
Eighteen years ago, when I was attending art school, I was searching for my own unique style. That’s when I learned about the possibilities of sweets. Ever since I was a child, the shapes and colors of sweets have remained in my memory because my mother taught at a confectionery school.
Why did you decide to pursue this style instead of being a pastry chef?
Because of my mother’s profession, there were always plenty of sweets. So I didn’t feel like making them myself or making pastry as a profession.
Finding a place in Japan’s contemporary art scene
“… No one thought of my work as art.”
Have you ever feared that your work would not be accepted as a work of art?
I have never been afraid that my work would not be accepted. I was more interested in how the art world would react to my unconventional use of artificial sweets. I love the act of making art, so when I wasn’t feeling confident about myself, I found my way by continuing to focus on the process of creating art with my hands.
Compared to traditional artists, how do you think choosing this medium has affected your career?
When I first started making work in this style, no one would recognize my work as fine art. But nevertheless, I continued to create and exhibit my work. It was when my work was featured in a book by Shuji Takashina, an art critic who was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit, that I realized the importance of continuing to create my own work.
What has been the most fulfilling response you have received from viewers?
I was very happy when my first work was sold. At the same time, I felt a sense of responsibility as an artist. The fact that there were collectors who would buy my works meant that I had to guarantee their value as an artist. It was then that I decided to put all my effort into my work.
What was the first piece you sold?
It was a work expressing “Karesansui” with resin whipped cream. I entered it in a competition organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and it was bought by the then governor of Tokyo.
“… In a time when I had no confidence in myself, I found my way by continuing to focus on the task of creating works of art with my own hands.”
What is the most difficult part of creating your work?
The most difficult part is decorating with resin whipped cream. In order to get the desired result, I use two different piping bag tips and adjust the grip to control the technique.
What does it mean to decorate a famous work of art with artificial confectionery?
Decorating a well known work of art and expressing it in my own way creates a new story.
Which piece do you like the most?
My favorite piece I’ve made so far is Kuniwumi, which is based on an ancient Japanese myth.
Traditionally, sweets are experienced primarily through eating. What does it mean to you to turn this experience alone into visual art?
I think everyone has a fond memory of sweets, and I aim to evoke that fond association through my work. People tend to exaggerate or recall the taste, color, and shape of sweets. Therefore, by reconstructing the colors of our memories, we can evoke that happy feeling.
Happiness by Osamu Watanabe
Looking to the Future
“Recently, I have become more interested in the place of my work in its historical context…”
How has your art, vision, and direction changed since you started?
In the beginning, I pursued art because it was fun. Recently, I have become more interested in the place of my work in its historical context and what it means to create it.
What would you tell an artist who is creating unique art?
Your originality is unique to you, so I encourage you to continue working on your art without giving up. Making art is something you can continue to do for the rest of your life. So, I would like to encourage aspiring artists to take it easy and continue to create for years to come. I also try to follow this precept.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would like to continue to present my work to the world and share my world of confectionary art. Currently, I am planning to have exhibitions in Indonesia and France. I would also like to continue to create artworks and increase the value of my works to collectors.
Where to buy Osamu Watanabe art
TRiCERA has a One-of-a-kind works by Osamu Watanabe to introduce many of them. If you want to know more about other young Japanese artists, please visit Contemporary Art page to learn more about other young Japanese artists.