Naoyuki Tsuji makes dark, smudgy, animated videos. Drawn, erased and redrawn on the same page in charcoal, his handmade process gives his characters murky outlines like after-images trailing behind them. A far cry from the highly polished products that mainstream animation produces, Tsuji’s independent artworks offer quivering, expressive lines of misadventure.
Usually accompanied by soundtracks of echoey baselines, keyboard refrains or the long, train whistle notes of a flute, long-time collaborator Makiko Takanishi regularly provides stark and mysterious scores. Most intriguing of all, is the way that Tsuji’s animations use the medium’s changeability to confound narrative expectations; evolving unpredictably like strange games of picture consequences.
Things become other things. Clouds become faces, a smouldering volcano erupts to form a vertical column that becomes a colossal tree trunk deep in a gigantic forrest, or a line of apartment buildings are lifted up on an invisible blanket to become the Milky Way streaming off into the distance. Tsuji’s works are full of curious connections, where scale is often askew and what is seen first dissolves into something else all together.
Sometimes you’re steadied by normalcy. In “A Trilogy about Clouds” (2005), the image of a lone woman drinking coffee in her kitchen is humdrum enough to momentarily cast doubt over what preceded it, making the prior excursion into the subconscious seem like just that: an odd dream. Tsuji’s videos have dream-like qualities to them and it’s these that allow the narrative to meander where it wishes, without the certainty of resolve.
The artist’s naïve style has a misleading charm to it. Bare and unfussy, the narratives betray their innocent appearance to serve his lo-fi process. Drawing and redrawing, this is the activity that really informs his work. As an exploratory medium, he lets his subjects and their associations take us to the next step in the story.
Naoyuki Tsuji was born in Shizuoka Prefecture (1972). The artist lives and works in Yokohama.
©Nick West 2015
*Please note that the video clips have been removed at the request of the artist.