January 2, 2009 / 6:48 AM / 10 years ago

Quirky Japanese cellotape art sticks out

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japanese sculptor Ryo Sehata’s art is sticky — sticky, as in it grabs your attention and makes you take a closer look, and also gummy-sticky because it’s made solely from cellotape.

Most of the 50 or so works on display at the Ryo Sehata “Cellotape 60th Anniversary” exhibition, which runs until February 15, look like some thick liquid that somehow solidified.

Many of the pieces are abstract shapes, some embellished with color, but some are eerily realistic and resemble babies or animals.

Sehata’s exhibition is fittingly on display at Tokyo’s Nerima Art Museum which is built upon the grounds of the company which first made sticky tape in Japan.

The 34-year-old artist says he has dedicated his life to his so-called “Cellotape Art” but admits these fascinating sculptures come at a hefty price.

“As you can see my hands are criss-crossed with scars and my fingers can hardly move thanks to repetitive strain injury, so it’s no joke that I have poured blood and sweat in to my art,” Sehata told Reuters Television at his atelier recently.

Calling himself a “go-with-the-flow” artist, Sehata says his works take shape as he painstakingly sticks pieces of tape together.

A piece like the abstract “Rolling Sculpture.24” began as a small ball of tape in 2006. Two years and 4,000 rolls later, Sehata calculates he’s stuck about 140 km (87 miles) of adhesive tape to create the sculpture.

Sehata started making shapes with sticky tape as a child, and likens the satisfaction he gets from the art form to long-distance running.

“It’s like a marathon. After a certain point the experience actually starts becoming pleasant and once I get to that point it’s basically like a runner’s high and that’s when the momentum gets going and of course, when I complete the project,” he said.

Sehata also finds contentment in teaching his technique: every weekend during his exhibition, he holds workshops on how to stick your way toward a masterpiece.

Many visitors were amazed at the versatility of this simple stationery item.

“I used to work in a stationery shop for the past couple of decades but as someone selling tape, I had no idea it could be used like this,” said 64-year-old Hiroko Iwasaki.

“It’s what children use to stick things together. The fact that it could be made into art was beyond the scope of my imagination.”

Ryo Sehata “Cellotape 60th Anniversary”

Nerima Art Museum (www.city.nerima.tokyo.jp/museum/)

1-36-16 Nukui, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 176-0021

10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Closed Mondays.

Writing by Olivier Fabre, editing by Miral Fahmy

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