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Nao Tatsumi makes us travel thanks to Google Street View

It is by traveling behind his small computer screen and reproducing his landscapes that Nao offers us his sweetened vision of the world.
This Japanese Illustrator graduated in Architectural Design of Art at the University of Tsukuba develops a fascination for the Google Street View tool that she uses in a totally unusual way. Meeting with this extraordinary artist who makes us travel in her very own universe.
Hello Nao, where are you right now? How do you occupy your day?

At the moment, I'm staying at home in Japan and working on new paintings for my personal exhibition. I also read books most of the day.
You use Google Street View in a totally unusual way. How did you come up with this idea?

In the beginning, it was just a matter of looking for the pattern of landscapes of foreign countries. As I progressed, the idea became more and more attractive. I find this way of painting the world very interesting, it's a modern approach.
You travel a lot, but your screen allows you to stroll through landscapes that are difficult to reach in reality, unless you do 15 hours of totally deserted roads. Is it for you a way to escape?

It is not to avoid spending time travelling. The most important point is that I can share landscapes with people from all over the world. Like neutral information coming from "nobody's eye" (i.e. the eye of the vehicle Google street view). It's a virtual trip. I can present my paintings as a consequence of looking at something from a subjective point of view.
Your style is figurative and very colorful. You bring cities back to life, while leaving them completely empty. I travel out of time when I admire your work. Is it a deliberate contrast?

I wanted to draw people by not drawing them. By expressing the absence of their presence, and also by contrasting reality and fantasy. I believe that people can feel that they live in my paintings.
When I look at your work, I can't help but think of Edward Hopper's "Nightbirds" or "Gas". Do you know this painter?

Yes, the way he cuts the scene and captures the contrasts of light and shadow impresses me. I think my oil paintings are influenced by his work after seeing his "Early Sunday Morning" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NY, in 2019.
At what age did you start painting? Were you immersed in an artistic environment as a child?

I started painting 5 years ago for good. Before that, I didn't know how to paint and that frustrated me.
As a child, I was introverted. I was always drawing something or reading books and watching movies. It was not an artistic environment, but my parents owned a clothing store and I was surrounded by fashionable items.
You live in Japan. It's a country that I dream of discovering. Where do you feel best to paint in this vastness?

I always imagine that I paint wherever I can connect with my youth. In Fukushima for example and I would like to do so if I get the opportunity.
You have exhibited your work several times in Tokyo. What are your future projects?

My solo exhibition will take place in Barcelona in 2020, it will be my first exhibition abroad. After that, I would love to show my work in Paris. I would be very grateful if a Parisian gallery was interested in my works.
Interview by Garance Delabriere
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