Art good enough to eat or food cute enough to display?
Fake cream artist Osamu Watanabe derives great pleasure from sugar-coating everything in sight.
Puffs of cream in billowy swirls alternate with glistening strawberries atop a perfect round shortcake. Chocolate flows over smooth yellow custard pudding, and candies shine jewel-like in piles.
You'd be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a top-end confectionery shop when instead, you're far more likely to find his creations in a gallery.
Click 'View Gallery' above for more pictures.
Food in strange places
The art comes through when the mismatch of food, objects and locations begins to blur: gleaming berries drip from a chandelier, poofs of whipped cream decorate a bloody-socketed skull, bonbons stand in for a dragon's scales.
More cream swirls march determinedly across the Gobi Desert.
Watanabe, who has been creating cream and cake sculptures for close to 10 years, traces his fixation with all things sweet to his childhood.
"My mother was a confectionery school teacher, and since I was a child I watched her there. It made a deep impression on me and those images remain, so it's natural to me to work with sweets as a theme," says Watanabe.
Cute art in unlikely places
Watanabe's art is part of the kawaii art movement that is gaining traction in Japan. In October, a Kawaii Art exhibition and grand prix was held at the Seibu department store in Shibuya, drawing 300 artists from around the country.
His work has been exhibited across the country, not only in galleries and museums but also department store shows and right now, at the Vivienne Tam boutique in Aoyama.
But kawaii art appeal isn't limited to Japan. In addition to exhibiting abroad (in places such as Hong Kong, Italy, South Korea, and Belgium), Watanabe has created a travel series called "Trip of Cream."
Combining his love of travel and seeing World Heritage sites with his art, he has taken to photographing cream dollops in front of sightseeing spots.
Exporting kawaii art
"Those locations are overflowing with impressiveness, and you can feel the distance between yourself and the place. But if you place an artwork of cream in front of it, the scene suddenly changes and the distance seems to shrink, so I wanted to initiate this project so that people who view this transformation of scenery can also enjoy it through photos."
Watanabe hopes the Kawaii Art movement will catch on and be the next big thing after the Micropop movement (with Yoshitomo Nara as probably its most famous purveyor).
Akihiro Hatanaka, owner of Shinseido Gallery and representing Watanabe, sees the movement gaining popularity, especially among young people.
Exposing his secrets
"Now, kawaii art is in department stores and galleries. But we want to exhibit in museums, and overseas, and be recognized as a movement," says Hatanaka.
Watanabe's next solo exhibition runs from December 1-7 at Ikebukuro's Seibu department store, entitled "Osamu Watanabe Sweet Christmas."
He'll also be holding a workshop to teach those who attend how to create his fake sweet, sharing his secrets.
He'll also be participating in a group exhibition from December 15-25 at Shinjuku's Takashimaya department store in a show called "Artistic Christmas vol. 4."
"Everyone loves sweets," Watanabe says, so he hopes to inspire happy feelings with his work.
When asked what his favorite dessert is, he replies, "I like anything sweet, but I especially love Mont Blanc!"