New York-based Japanese artist and designer Sho Shibuya has opened a new exhibition at Unit London titled Month. Composed of 30 paintings and one sculpture that he completed between January and May 2023, the work stems from a larger project that has seen the artist create paintings using the front covers of various New York Times newspapers for the last few years.
In April 2020, just as lockdown was beginning to set in, and nearly the entire news cycle consisted of Covid-related stories, Shibuya began transforming the covers into artworks as a way of contrasting the bleakness of current affairs with the tranquility of the morning sky.
Waking at five or six in the morning, he reads the newspaper, goes for a run, and then returns to his apartment to photograph the sunrise and paint it onto that day’s New York Times issue using acrylic paint.
In doing so, Shibuya does more than just lighten the load of the daily news – he presents a visual examination of time. Though some days feel short or long, insignificant or monumental, time passes just the same, and is represented through these colourful renderings of the rising sun.
The artworks show that the current state of society has no bearing on what the gallery calls “movements of nature”, and though our subjective experience of the world may affect the way we perceive certain moments in time, their passing is inevitable.
However, with that in mind, Shibuya does allow certain events to remain on the page. Whenever the paper’s editors choose a one-line headline format – used to announce important stories of global concern – he leaves that part uncovered. Such headlines include the US election results, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and other significant moments in world history.
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At the exhibition, this dialogue between the peaceful gradients of the morning sky and the harshness of the news is furthered through the inclusion of unpainted copies of the paper. Scattered across the floor of the show, these regular copies, displaying all of the usual headlines, emphasise the fact that tragic events occur despite the beauty of the natural world.
He has also created a sculpture for the show featuring 30 more newspaper artworks arranged in a cylindrical shape, like “petals”, as he calls them.
“I find happiness in ordinary things. The New York Times paintings, for instance, started from my lockdown experience, looking up at the sky and feeling inspired, then painting on the newspaper, which is a very everyday object,” the artist told CR in 2021. “If you look at things a little differently, you can create something beautiful out of the mundane.”
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Month is on show at Unit London until August 24; unitlondon.com