The gorgeous art of Japanese illustrator Hiroshi Nagai

Hiroshi Nagai

Whenever I listen to Broken Wings by Mr Mister, I have this vision of a warm sunny Saturday afternoon in 1994, drenched in vivid colours. Little did I know that aesthetic had already existed a decade before thanks to Hiroshi Nagai.

The Japanese painter grew up in Tokushima Prefecture and started his career in King Terry’s studio and made a name for himself in the early 80s. His depictions of West Coast America during the 50s worked wonders during Japan’s economic boom from the 80s. There was also a new genre to tie it all together: City Pop.

The easiest way to explain City Pop is to imagine soft rock meeting soft pop with sunshine and swimming pools. And sprinkle a bit of the 80s as a garnish. Metaphors aside, the genre was very popular in Japan and Nagai’s poolside paintings were the perfect visual aid.

Hiroshi Nagai - 6/9(sun)雨…まだふってない?最高気温21℃最低17℃、3ねんまえにアメリカにおくった絵 (from Instagram)
6/9(sun)雨…まだふってない?最高気温21℃最低17℃、3ねんまえにアメリカにおくった絵 (from Instagram)

Some of his influences include Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali, but pop art also had a significant effect on his art.

“Without American pop art I would not have to start painting the way I did. This experience made me paint my summer skies as deep blues from that point on. That said, surrealism was also a big influence, and of course hyper-realism.”

Hiroshi Nagai

Nowadays, we have genres like vaporwave that take cues from that era but more akin to the 90s and with more digital effects than paint and brushes. Hiroshi Nagai’s artistry is still coveted by many including myself.

Hiroshi Nagai - Pacific Breeze
Hiroshi Nagai – Pacific Breeze

Where to get Hiroshi Nagai prints

You can get “unofficial” prints from Amazon, Redbubble, and Society6. There was the MAGIC STICK collab from their Spring/Summer 2018 collection (if you can find an item from it). In that, the Japanese street label tapped up Nagai to design their limited capsule collection, including tees, jackets and vinyl bags.

(via The Vinyl Factory)

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