Kaoru Hashimoto is right where she belongs: surrounded by her art. Here at Lot 10’s Isetan The Japan Store in Kuala Lumpur, she is seated at a desk and working day and night on her elaborate drawings. Her completed works are framed and on display all around her, a vibrant sight right inside the store entrance.
“This is my fourth time in KL and I love it so much. Japan is such a serious place, people are so serious, but Malaysians are kind and funny. I love the food - the economy rice, bak kuk teh, nasi lemak, nasi kandar. I love the warm weather and how even when it rains, the sun returns soon after the storm, ” she says during a recent chat.
The Kobe native has always adored drawing but the pivotal moment that set her on her artistic journey came in the form of a gift. She presented the owner and bartender of her favourite bar with a drawing she made of him at the bar. He displayed it on the counter, his patrons loved it - and Kaoru started getting enquiries about her art.
She continued presenting friends with paintings of themselves and was thrilled when they expressed delight at her work.
“It made me happy to see them so happy. At that time I was an office worker and after doing it for so many years, I was just so bored! I was very excited when I decided to embark on my journey as a full-time artist, ” she shares.
That was how she ended up taking the plunge to switch career paths two years ago, and she’s loving every moment. It sounds like a gruelling schedule; this year she has some 10 countries on her list.
“But who knows how my plans will be affected with this coronavirus situation now, ” she muses.
Still, this woman is not going to let anything dampen her spirits and has produced a piece that is a cheeky response to headlines on human behaviour in such a crisis. In this work, a young woman takes a swig out of a Corona beer bottle while the iconic Edvard Munch’s The Scream looks on in horror.
“I imagine he is screaming ‘nooooo!’ when he sees her drinking, ” laugh Kaoru. She throws her hands up to her face, striking the same iconic pose.
As per the norm of drawing from local sights and sounds whenever she travels, she has, in the last few days, also created something based on KL scenes, with the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL tower in the artwork.
“I gain inspiration from my travels”, she says. “I think it is always nice to soak in the local sights and of course that finds its way into my works - with a lot of imagination too of course!”
Her works are meticulously done and beautifully detailed. Topics are varied, from the well-loved Japanese images we all know, to pop culture, animals and local scenes.
Kaoru works on regular A4 paper and creates art with her trusty ballpoint pen. At the moment she also uses a water-based gel pen and brush pens. Some of her works are collages, but so seamlessly done that it isn’t obvious until you peer a little closer.
She might be travelling the world with her art now, but home - despite its “serious people” - is evidently close to her heart. She talks about her parents, her 90-year-old grandmother and how she is worried about her health, she shares how she always returns to her favourite bar where her artwork is still on display today.
“It was how I started and it makes me happy to see it there. Even though it is always exciting to be sharing my art with people around the world, it is always a nice feeling to be back home, even if only for a while, ” she says.
Meet Kaoru Hashimoto at Ground Floor, Isetan The Japan Store, Lot 10, from 12pm to 10pm daily, until March 19. Instagram @kaorunrun2.4ohashi. Facebook: Kaoru Hashimoto.