Meet Hirotoshi Ito, the sculptor creating magic from mundanity. Inspired by surrealism and daily life, Hirotoshi Ito is the sculptor turning pebbles into phenomenal art.
Inspiration can be found everywhere if you know how to look, and Japanese sculptural artist Hirotoshi Ito knows exactly how. Although rocks tend to be just a small part of nature that we pass by in our daily life, Ito turns them into works of art. From melding them into folded shirts, reshaping them into coin purses, or even giving them life by turning them into talking mouths! With the base material being a hard and stiff item, it takes an immense amount of craftsmanship skills and extensive imagination to explore such mundane material into creating a portfolio like his.
The artist was born in 1958 in Matsumoto, a city found in Japan’s Nagato prefecture. Ito was born into a family that was run by skilled craftsmen as his family ran a masonry business for five generations now ever since its inception in 1879. Ito was always interested in the arts, as he shares how he was part of the animation club in school. Later on in his family business, he started creating his first rock sculptures before taking off on his own journey.
To study his love for crafts further, the artist attended the Tokyo University of the Arts where he focused on metal smithing. This interest to study metal smithing came from an adoration for his Yubiko teacher who happened to be a metal craft artist. From there, he discovered a new range of arts made of materials he had never tried before. With this new discovery and an adventurous spirit that is always up for a challenge, he decided to set off to hone his skills in the field. During his time at University, he shared that he was able to learn about the art of sculpting in a more in-depth manner, which complimented the technical masonry skill he was already taught by his family.
Although his studies focused on metal smithing, he continues to persist in creating artworks that are made of rock. “Metals were artificially made by humans, while rocks were formed naturally,” he says to DEW, explaining his choice on using rocks as a medium, “From that natural form itself I got a lot of hints.” One close look at a rock and you’d see that lines, cracks and porous textures are left as an imprint of the natural forces that a rock has come across and these natural features of the material are what Ito finds so fascinating.
Behind his works, Ito finds inspiration from surrealist artists, telling us that he has been looking at the works of Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali ever since he was still in high school. The imaginative, unconventional and bold spirit that the surrealist movement possesses is reflected on how out-of-the-box Ito’s works are. At the same time, he shares that he also finds inspiration from the everyday things in life, whether it’s a conversation with a friend or a line he read from a novel, he’s bound to find something in everything!
Through his art, he’s able to testify that anything is transformable according to your imagination while also telling whimsical stories through his pieces. “In the series that used zippers, a lot of stories come from the inside of the rock where it peeked through, and I loved it,” he shares. This storytelling factor is also part of the appeal of his enchanting works — you wouldn’t expect a social commentary to come from a rock.
This unique sentiment of creating magic from mundanity is what Ito hopes his audience takes away from his art, “I want them to find out the breadth of expression in masonry. Also, I want them to know the beauty or appeal of natural rocks we find nearby.” At the end of the day, he wishes that his creations could give people that sense of wonder of amazement, as causing a simple smile is enough to keep him going. “I’m reaching 65 already. Despite the fact that I’m beginning to struggle with my own health, as long as I can enjoy the amazements and smiles from people all around the world, I want to continue my work as much as I can.” (Text Vanya Harapan)