Visual Commentaires on Contemporary Speculative Changes

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Colour, Masters

Visual Commentaires on Contemporary Speculative Changes

Ryota Matsumoto


Matsumoto’s drawings reflect the morphological transformations of our ever-evolving urban and ecological milieus that are attributed to a multitude of spatio-temporal phenomena influenced by social, economic and cultural factors. They are created as visual commentaries on speculative changes in notions of societies, cultures and ecosystems in the transient nature of constantly shifting topography and geology.

The artwork explores the hybrid technique combining both traditional media (ink, acrylic, and graphite) and digital media (algorithmic processing, parametric modeling, data transcoding and image compositing with custom software).

The Indistinct Notion of an Object Trajectory

The Indistinct Notion of an Object Trajectory Mixed Media, 2014, 68cmx119cm, 30inx22in

The varying scale, juxtaposition of biomorphic forms, intertwined textures, oblique projections and visual metamorphoses are employed as the multi-layered drawing methodologies to question and investigate the ubiquitous nature of urban meta-morphology, the eco-political reality of the Anthropocene epoch, the advancement of biomaterial technologies and their visual representation in the context of non-Euclidean configuration. Furthermore, the application of these techniques allows the work to transcend the boundaries between analog and digital media as well as between two- and multi-dimensional domains.

His compositional techniques imbue the work with what we see as the very essence of our socio-cultural environments beyond the conventional protocols of architectural and artistic formalities, and that they conjure up the synthetic possibilities within which the spatial and temporal variations of existing spatial semiotics emerge as the potential products of alchemical procedures.

Still from Cities of Inextricable Velocities

Still from Cities of Inextricable Velocities Mixed Media, 2016, 80cmx97cm, 31inx38in


Who influences you graphically?

As I’ve collaborated with the architects and theorists who had played the pivotal roles in Metabolist movement in 60s as an urban planner, I am always aware of the open and participatory techno-utopian projects that had been proposed by the visionary architects of the same era, revolving around Guy Debord and the Situationist International group. Their critical and free-spirited investigations towards the relationship between language, narrative, and cognition through the wide range of media have defined and influenced the way I develop and refine my theoretical basis and modus operandi. I also consider my individual drawings as modular units, which could eventually be assembled as the cohesive and unified scenarios of meta-urbanism. That is also inspired by the concept of open architecture and mobile structures proposed by the groups.

How did you start these visual commentaries? How important is the visual image in our contemporary society?

My early interest in science, sociology and visual art led me to take up architecture as my profession initially. I always feel that the boundaries between art and design disciplines are no longer of any significance and they tend to blur more often than not. Both fields have certain similarities in terms of their creative outlets and complement each other well as far as a multi-perspective approach to visual communication is concerned. Evidently, art and architecture share a lot in common in terms of engaging with forms, structures and color. So I could say both pathways merged naturally for me and it eventually led me to address the current socio-cultural agendas of urban and ecological milieus through visual narratives. I explore and question both sustainable and ethical issues of the urban environment that have been influenced by the socio-political realities of the Anthropocene albeit with the use of visual/cognitive semantics, analogical reasoning, and narrative metaphors. When human population and energy use saw their exponential rise with great acceleration, these interactive effects of the planet transforming processes on the environment are the impending issues that we have to come to terms with. Furthermore, my projects hinge on how the scientific tenets of trans-humanism, the emergence of synthetic biotechnology and Nano technological innovations could respond to the current ecological crisis and eventually foster critical thinking in relation to the underlying agendas of the geological epoch. Consequently, the dynamic interplay of the biomorphic artifacts of advanced technologies and the remnants of preexisting obsolete infrastructures is considered as the catalyst for establishing my own conjectural approach toward the visionary cityscape of speculative urbanism.

Oblique Trail Convolution

Oblique Trail Convolution Mixed Media ,2016, 77cmx103cm, 30inx40in

What is your work process and medium? 

I don’t plan much beforehand and might do some simple sketches for clarifying ideas, but they usually turn into something drastically different or almost unrecognizable as the creative process proceeds. I prefer to take an unexpected trip that might lead me down an unpredictable path. Spontaneity is a crucial element to keep the tension and freshness in my work, especially when I work with digital media, which is often associated with formalistic rigidity.
My drawing process involves base images that are composed by 3D modeling software incorporating generative and recursive algorithms.
Then they are overlaid with traditional media such as acrylic, ink and graphite, as well as photo collage. These are further processed and looped through a series of arithmetic and stochastic operations by image editing programs and plugins.
The hybrid technique allows for a certain degree of unpredictability of visual dynamics. To be more specific, It distorts the fabric of space-time in the context of non-Euclidean configuration.


Rapid Gaze Polynomials Embedded in Infinite Variables

Rapid Gaze Polynomials Embedded in Infinite Variables Mixed Media, 2016, 64cmx70cm, 25inx27in

The compositions mostly appear as central to the page and not escaping the limit of the edge, why so? What dictates the way you choose to format the drawings?

I prefer simpler compositional framework as it allows me to focus on details to the extent that I’d examine how the integration (or possibly lack thereof)
of biosynthetic elements and archaic technological substructures is feasible in the context of the  underlying spatial configuration. In that respect, I’d relate to schematic drawings of Ernst Haeckel, Wenzel Jamnitzer and Salvatore Trinchese more so than contemporary paintings. Some of their canonical work had reached their apex in terms of conveying anatomical and physiological information in precision in lieu of photographic records around 19th century. You’d notice that the layouts of their drawings are relatively straight forward, and yet they meticulously visualize technical details that deliver deep insights into their specific areas of study.
Therefore I’d always identify with narrative and process-oriented aspects of drawings rather than their overall compositions.

Imaginary Echo Chamber

Imaginary Echo Chamber Mixed Media, 2016, 68cmx74cm, 27inx29in

What is the role of the background, what dictates its texture and how does it represent a certain consistency in between all?

If anything, most of my drawings are not confined to any particular time, location, and historical setting. Even though the work weaves together certain narrative elements and recurring themes, it is still relatively open-ended and exploratory in nature. So the background tends to be non-contextual. In short, everyone could interpret my work and create a fictional backdrop through one’s own interpretation.

The Solar Flares for Transient Modulation

The Solar Flares for Transient Modulation Mixed Media, 2015, 83cmx59cm, 23inx32in

Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event

Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event Mixed Media, 2014, 84cmx119cm, 33inx47in

Quantized Crackles of Emotional Scales

Quantized Crackles of Emotional Scales Mixed Media, 2015, 62cmx96cm, 24inx38in

Perpetual Motion Machine

Perpetual Motion Machine Mixed Media, 2014, 82cmx55cm, 32inx21in


Ryota Matsumoto is a principal and founder of an award-winning interdisciplinary design office, Ryota Matsumoto Studio. He is an artist, designer and urban planner. Born in Tokyo, he was raised in Hong Kong and Japan.

He received a Master of Architecture degree from University of Pennsylvania in 2007 after his studies at Architectural Association in London and Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art in early 90’s. Matsumoto has previously collaborated with a cofounder of the Metabolist Movement, Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki, Cesar Pelli, MIT Media Lab and Nihon Sekkei Inc. before establishing his office.

His art and design work are featured in numerous publications and exhibitions worldwide.




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