Girl power This Rus­sian artist gives an added sense of depth and ma­tu­rity to his de­pic­tion of manga char­ac­ters

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

The work of über-pop­u­lar manga artist Ilya Kuvshinov is col­lected in one vol­ume – we as­sess whether it’s a must-buy.

The lush, deep colours and tones of his il­lus­tra­tions re­ally do jump out of the page

Au­thor Ilya Kuvshinov Pub­lisher PIE Books Price £23 Web Avail­able Now

Mo­men­tary is the first art book by the tal­ented and pop­u­lar Ilya Kuvshinov. The Rus­sian-born artist, who now lives in Tokyo, has be­come a main­stay of the manga scene and is a huge name on so­cial me­dia, too.

At first glance, all the genre tropes are care­fully ad­hered to, from wide, ex­pres­sive eyes and young girls to sweep­ing Ja­panese land­scapes, both ur­ban and sub­ur­ban.

On closer in­spec­tion, how­ever, Ilya is no copy­ist, but has forged a style that’s all of his own. Char­ac­terised by pin­point pre­ci­sion and at­ten­tion to de­tail, his art – which ranges from car­toon­ish to near-pho­to­real – has an hon­est depth to it that makes it stand out from other manga artists’ work. And this lov­ingly cu­rated, soft­back book brings to­gether the best of his work from the past three years.

The vast ma­jor­ity of these de­pict women on the young side, but nowhere is there any sense of im­pro­pri­ety. Far from voyeuris­tic, Ilya’s art is not about phys­i­cal at­tributes, but in­stead is firmly fo­cused on evok­ing per­son­al­ity and back story. As he him­self says in the in­tro­duc­tion to the fi­nal chap­ter, his goal is “nar­ra­tive driven art…. char­ac­ters that con­nect with [the au­di­ence] on an emo­tional level.” In that aim, he’s suc­ceeded.

You don’t need to buy a book to en­joy Ilya’s art: you could sim­ply join his near-one mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and check out his work there. But, per­haps mind­ful of this, the pub­lish­ers have lav­ished at­ten­tion on the print qual­ity of this book. And so the lush, deep colours and tones of his il­lus­tra­tions re­ally do jump off the phys­i­cal page, in a way that they don’t on screen. And there’s an ex­tra treat in store: a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of work-in­progress sketches that re­veal a rare in­sight into Ilya’s artis­tic process.

On the down­side, there’s not a lot to ac­tu­ally read in this book: just a few para­graphs in­tro­duc­ing each of the six chap­ters, which ap­pear in both English and Ja­panese. But it’s still in­ter­est­ing to hear the artist’s brief com­ments about his past few years of cre­ativ­ity, such as why he uses a square-shaped can­vas (“it’s the perfect way to cap­ture peo­ple’s emo­tions”). Given the amount of art on show, it’s as­ton­ish­ing that he’s pro­duced so much in so lit­tle time. We can’t wait for vol­ume two. Ra ting ★★★★

Ilya’s fig­ures are of­ten seen in the most mun­dane of en­vi­ron­ments, which in­tro­duces a sense of con­trast.

Big eyes – check. But­ton nose – check. Del­i­cate jaw­line – check. But Ilya’s art is manga with a dif­fer­ence, as his book tes­ti­fies.

The artist aims to cap­ture “ca­sual ges­tures” in his work.

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