Kumi Hiroi is a graphic designer/visual artist interested in constructing narratives to make stories tangible. The stories have common themes: ‘the gaze: the relationship of the one looking and the other that is being looked at’, ‘the relationship between humans and their environment’ and ‘the adjustments of nature for human convenience and profit’. She combines her imagination with detailed research and fieldwork on the unique culture and histories of the specific region while she visualising the complex layers of the subject into visual statements.
Hiroi graduated in economics from Saitama University, Japan and studied at Central Saint Martins in England before she completed her BA in graphic design at Gerrit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands. She has worked at graphic design studios and she has had her own studio in Amsterdam, the Netherlands since 2010.
ABOUT THE WORK
Partly because of her background in economics and the visual art, as well as her profession as a graphic designer, her artwork investigates - among other things - narratives that presents details of economic activity including consumption and the production process whilst constructing a narrative by using images and words as the visual language.
For example, Remodeling (From 2016 -) and Ping Pong (2017) investigated the construction of narratives by using images (photography) and words (typography). The gaze is one of the themes. For Remodeling, she researched how people perceive the fashion advertisements and created new images that they represent those viewpoints. The work is a transformation of the advertisements – the gaze to the women and the consumers being turned into a new notion of beauty. With Ping Pong, she constructed a layered story through the process in which the photography and the written stories reacted with each other. Ping Pong has three points of views that sometimes overlaps. It was presented as an interactive application for mobile (screens). In her work, images and texts are used to direct the narratives towards an audience/user experience.
Elements of the ‘Relationship between human and their environment’ and ‘adjustments of nature for human convenience’ are seen in Sweden collection (2013) and Parel Shilhouet (2019). In Sweden collection, Hiroi researched Allemansrätten which means ‘every man’s right’ in Swedish. It’s about public access to nature and your enjoyment of that right. It’s how humans have lived with nature from ancient times. The end result was a live performance piece which included the clothing, eating and dancing.
For Parel Silhouet, she researched the historical relationships between Japan and the Netherlands and the present-day production of cultivated pearls in Japan. She has frequently visited Nagasaki, Japan, to talk to local pearl producers and people working in the pearl industry. The narrative represents the Dutch global network that originate in the 17th century, the darkness of colonialism and the contrasting radiance of pearls shown through production process of pearls. The representation of the story comprised of images, texts, poems, video and textile works and it represented the complex relationships between the nature and economical activities of humans.
Hiroi sees the world through complex layers which include all the contradictions. The system where we live in has contradictions. Capitalism has lost its original meaning and gone too far, and the wealth is not distributed. Companies pay for land ownership and workers, but they pay nothing for the nature that supplies them. The plunder is repeated only on the basis of that exclusive right. But, when you see the labor, you sometimes see the alternate reality of working conditions which are independent from of the economic rewards. This is tied to the various values of each society and you find wisdom in coexisting with the environment. How human reacts within this system contains contradictions as well.
Hiroi’s work presents stories of human complexity and contradictions within a system and suggests the possibilities of the alternative relationships that people can have with their surroundings.