Artist Questionnaire with Nao Tokunaga

Part of Retrospective: Wong Kar Wai

The Reminisce (2021) by Nao Tokunaga
The original work is available for viewing and purchase at Oldham Theatre until 4 April 2021. Limited edition risograph prints signed and numbered by the artist and postcard prints are also available for purchase while stocks last.
  1. How would you describe your style?

For this work, I pushed the cinematic feeling inspired by Wong Kar Wai’s color and lighting. I wanted to make a visual to inspire someone else to write a spinoff about after Days of Being Wild. For work, I do different kinds of styles of work, but no matter what kind of thing I am designing, I always prioritize expressing the feeling and emotion of the scenes.

  1. Why did you choose the creative path?

I chose this career because it both has something I like and something I’m good at. My job is visualizing ideas and concepts with form, color, and light. My favorite part is that I can translate my internal emotions and external inspiration to my work directly.

  1. Who are your creative heroes?

Film directors like Michel Gondry and Wes Anderson because they have both humor and an original aesthetic. I really love how they emphasise the fantasy side of bitter life. David Cronenburg films show me mind-blowing concepts and themes that always bring me to a brand-new dimension. Xavier Dolan for his epic moments and scenes. I always learn new things from rewatching work from these great directors.

  1. Where do you find inspiration from? (Dreams? Films? Your environment?)

Both films and real life. Films impact me in terms of storytelling and lighting. I study the mood of films because it’s all based on the emotions of the characters, and that’s what I always try to do. Real life studies, on the other hand, help me to see real color and principles. For those I prefer using traditional mediums to help speed up my decision-making. Skills of all studies help each other effectively and help me in both expected and unexpected ways.

  1. Do you have a specific medium you like to work in? Does this also inspire or drive the works you create?

I mostly do digital paintings for work, but I love painting with Acrylic and Gouache. Traditional mediums always give me fresh inspiration. For pre-production design work, I use anything I can for the design process as long as it helps my brain. I use clay, colored paper, blocks, strings, etc. depending on what I’m designing. The more tools you have to help you think, the better.

  1. What are some of the features that draw you to this film?

Attractive characters. Each person is so different, each with their own intentions. Yuddy especially has a destination in his mind just like other characters in Wong Kar Wai films. Wong Kar Wai is really good at capturing the moment that characters are pounding and dreaming about their destination, which I find beautiful. That’s definitely one of the reasons why I’m personally attracted to his works

  1. What was the inspiration behind your artwork?

Each character’s relationship in Days Of Being Wild made me want to paint this scene. Like in films, the enemy always tends to be obvious, but in real life, this isn’t the case. In Days Of Being Wild, Lulu and Su only had one fighting scene but maybe they feel like they have a special connection deep inside. Maybe they understand each other’s feelings the most because they both had an obsession with Yuddy. Just like the diner scene in Heat (1995) with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Even though they are rivals, they have a special connection which only they can feel. I tried to push the mood between Su and Lulu like that.

  1. Any advice for budding artists out there?

Always compare yourself to the better version of yourself, not somebody else you randomly see on social media. You have a lot of time to improve on, so just be patient, be constant, keep learning and stay humble!

Artwork Information

Title: The Reminisce (2021)
Film: Days of Being Wild (1990)
Description: The Reminisce captures the unlikely meeting of two love rivals taking place at the iconic Queen’s Café in Hong Kong. The work paints a scene of Lulu and Su, former rivals and stark opposites of each other, now seeking to form a connection through the shared history of their respective ill-fated relationships with Yuddy. They find comfort in each other, with Yuddy—who also appears as an apparition in the background—as a centrepiece of their conversations.

The imagery is an encapsulation of a moment where two women reminisce about the times they had with the same man they once shared, exchanging the pain and shame caused by the man they had thought was the love of their lives.

An ode to the process of slowly, but inevitably, coming to terms with unhealthy relationships with the self and the penchant for destructive relationships.

About the Artist

A concept and visual development artist by training working in the fast-growing game and animation industry, Nao spends many hours avidly observing people and the environment around her during her breaks. Expressing her visual studies through plein air painting, and taking the most nuanced of observations, she translates them in lighting and colours, turning them into cinematic works of paintings.

Instagram: @naotokunaga

About the Writer