Cauro Hige's gentle masculine illustrations
Cauro Hige is a self-taught artist from Osaka, Japan. His artworks are a fusion of masculine sexuality and enigmatic portraits and decoration.
Originally studying psychology at Kyoto University, Hige's thesis topic explored ‘how the role of the masculine gender grows, works and changes in a male individual'.
This theme seems to continue through his art, where he continues to explore gender developing his own visual language in his art, playing with imagery and encouraging associations between them.
Hige's interest in art began with his father, who was an artist, and trained him in wood-block printing, a process that has a stylistic and cultural heritage in Japan. Although Hige continued a career in psychology, it was many years later he decided to explore and concentrate his interest in creating art. Since he launched his art career in 2008, Cauro has participated in exhibitions in Los Angeles; Sydney; Torremolinos, Spain, NYC and Tokyo.
‘I love artworks that represent opposite elements at once. Van Gogh’s works are bold and sensitive, Gustav Klimt’s are gorgeous and fragile, Edward Hoppers are bright and lonely.’
Hige's artworks have an original and recognisable style. Visual elements in his work can often seem contradictory to one another, he selects and draws muscled, bear-like, masculine nude figures and uses a range of imagery, text and pattern in adornment. Sometimes this can be flora and fauna - such as flowers, birds and animals - or more modern graphics, objects and symbols.
‘I love depicting flowers, especially those hanging from above or fluttering about in the wind. I love painting birds, butterflies and fish too. I love the way they look light and delicate’
The 2D line strokes outlining the figure contrast with the photo realism we see in some portraits giving them a sense of depth. Then there may be a flat overlying pattern, text or symbols, or line art which negate this. In this way they appear like flat collages, they remind us these are purely illustrations. It leaves them in the realm of imagination.
‘A certain kind of 2 dimensional beauty seems to slip away by adding colours, shades and highlights. Then I began to value linear work. I always seek for a comfortable balance between 2D and 3D’
Hige appears influenced by traditional Ukiyo-e art, which are woodblock prints from the Edo period in Japan. The style of these artworks is defined by their means of production, and the limitations of this process. Wood carvings are used to make multiple prints of the same image, originally it was used to print books and book illustrations, but eventually this imagery became single sheet artworks.
Ukiyo-e artworks bold colours and black outlines, in these prints figures were typically ‘drawn’ in a flat plane, although the geometry of landscapes suggest a sense of depth, all aspects of the composition appear on the surface due to its stylistic simplicity. Typical subject matter include beautiful females, theatre actors, landscapes, flora and birds and erotica.
And this seems in keeping with Hige, who often borrows social media figures and personalities from the internet, drawing them literally into his own world.
'My imagination automatically stretches out when I come across someone attractive, in a magazine or on the Internet, and it makes up an arbitrary story about him. This is usually a base of my work.'
The layering of imagery alongside these masculine portraits, anchor them with a tenderness, or a sensitivity that seems to offset any overt sexual play. Within the flat space of his digital art and paintings, we are allowed to imagine or build stories for these characters, to place them in a space of playful curiosity and sensitivity rather than of simple sexual digest or gratification. It explores masculinity as a composition.
Rarely in Hige's work do we see the men engage with one another, there's always a disavowal of male sex, there is never a celebration of the men finding one another, or engaging with one another. They are often always looking off into the distance, back to back, and they are not making eye contact. There's a sense of loneliness and longing to these images. The images where Hige has drawn men not engaging with viewer, reveal his study of masculinity in his art, there is a sense of voyeurism to them, of curiosity. This may be why they become decorated and adored and longed after by the artist.
Hige's solo men gesture to us as viewers, making suggestive expressions and sometimes appear sexually playful or are posed to be looked at for their bodies and beauty. These are our pin-up men, the men and the art that find their way onto our walls as prints and computer desktops as wallpaper.
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Cauro Hige has a website online and a shop, along with an art-book. Follow him on instagram here @caurohige
Cauro is a Tom of Finland Foundation contest winner. His work has been featured in magazines, notably the online art magazine Noisy Rain. The book 100 Artists of the Male Figure, which includes some of his work, has just been released from Schiffer Publishing. And he has appeared in the Japanese magazine G-Men.
All quotes from Cauro Hige are referenced from an interview that appears in Bearutus:
Advocate. 2011. Artist Spotlight: Cauro Hige. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/art/artist-spotlight/2011/04/30/artist-spotlight-cauro-hige. [Accessed 3 September 2019].
Hige, C., 2015. Bearutus. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.