If you head over to Ki Niseko any time during the next three months, you'll see a life-size model cow painted in blue and covered with bright orange and yellow sunflowers. The cow was designed by local artist Yuko Moroi, and is part of the Cow Parade, a global art initiative that has been hosted in more than 80 countries. It is the first time that the exhibit has been held outside Tokyo since it debuted in Japan, and has has attracted participation from amateur and professional artists from all over.
The Ki Niseko-stationed cow is one of 47 cows that have been placed around Niseko Hirafu, Kutchan Town, Niseko Village and Hanazono, and will be on display for the public to enjoy until the exhibit finishes on October 1st.
Yuko is one of a select few Cow Parade artists who was chosen to design and paint two cows for the event. We caught up with her to ask her thoughts on Cow Parade Niseko and how the event is helping develop a local art scene.
Tell us a about yourself and how you came to be involved with the Niseko Cow Parade?
When I look back at my life, I realize that my life is always with art. My mother told me that I already liked drawing pictures when I was at kindergarten, and I remember that I liked writing journals with a little drawing everyday when I was very little. When I went to high school in Switzerland, my strength was still drawing and painting so I took the IB art course and the art teacher helped me improve my art skills a lot.
After I graduated from art school in Boston, I took a period of away from art. I guess it was a time to cool down a little bit. In Tokyo, I had opportunities to get to know many artists and we held several gallery exhibitions together. Since I gave a birth to my sons, I have been a typical busy housewife. When I heard about the Cow Parade, I thought that it would be a chance to get back to my creative life. I submitted three designs and two of the designs were chosen.
How did you find out about Cow Parade Niseko?
My friend's husband asked me if I knew about the Cow Parade. They said that it would be cool if my art work was exhibited in Niseko area. I didn't have much time before the deadline, so I submitted designs as soon as possible.
Can you describe and explain the designs for the two cows that you have painted? Influences?
One is called "Cow-bu-ki". Kabuki is the classical Japanese dance drama. I just played with the world "kabuki" to make "Cow-bu-ki".
Since Niseko is a unique, international area, I thought that the Japanese style would attract attention from the audience. I personally love kimono patterns because they are gorgeous yet have cool designs. The toughest part of this design was the hair. I got hold of some natural wool and dyed it red. Because the cow is displayed outside for more than three months, it needed to be water proof. I believe that this would not be perfect if this hair was not on this design.
The other one is a sunflower design. On blue background, bright orange and yellow sunflowers are painted all over the cow's body. White clouds and ladybugs are also painted. A bright red sun is on the cow's face. It gives you a strong impression of very hot summer day. This cow's title is "shuka", meaning the hottest summer day. I wanted to express a hot summer day because this exhibition is held in summer time.
Enjoy finding a ladybug wearing sunglasses!
Where will we be able to see your cows around Niseko?
You can find Shuka, the sunflower one right outside Ki Niseko. Cow-bu-ki is placed at the Orchards.
What do you think about Niseko hosting the Cow Parade? What makes it a good destination for an event like this?
As I mentioned before, Niseko is a very unique place with so many different cultures mixed in this small town. Niseko is not only one of the best ski resorts in the world but it also it has huge potential for an art culture to develop, especially during the summer season. But I feel that it still needs to develop more. The town needs a creative atmosphere that appeals to the artists who live outside of Niseko to make them want to come. I hope that the Cow Parade leads the development of Niseko's art scene, and this event is a good start.
Are there any other artists or designs that you are particularly interested in?
I've had a chance to meet many artists throughout the event. I couldn't have met them without the Cow Parade, so I really appreciate the opportunity. I have been inspired by many of the professional artists, but the amateur local artists are worthy of respect. A guy named MockSun worked at the same workshop studio as me, and his work is just amazing! You will all be surprised by looking at his cow design! His work is so detailed and the patterns and coloring inspired me a lot! He must be the one who spent the most time working on this project. It's worth it to go and see his cow!
How do you find the art scene in Hokkaido?
Hokkaido is an island and I feel that the people born here stay here. Unlike a big city like Tokyo, people who seek something new don't choose to come to Hokkaido. So I feel that fresh creative air is not staying here enough. It's still developing, I think. On the other hand, I know that many local artists are working hard to make the scene better. So I would like to make the scene greater with them, if I can.
What's your favourite art attraction to visit in Niseko/Hokkaido?
Around this area, Keiyu Nishimura Museum of Art in Kyowa town is a nice museum. I also like the architecture of Arishima Memorial Museum in Niseko.
It's too bad that there are only a few art galleries here in Niseko. I wish I could say "it's tough, there are too many favorite art galleries and can't choose!". Maybe I should make one!
What do you have planned now that you've finished painting your two cows?
I actually discussed the next art event with people from the Niseko Promotion Board (NPB). Now that I have nice artist friends in town I think it would be great if I could start something with them in the future. One of the ideas that we had was to rent an open studio that anybody could visit and see us working on projects. Or we could host an art workshop together in the Niseko area. I think that this is just the start, so we should take advantage of this event more to get people involved in the art scene. Maybe hosting a Cow Parade again in a few years? Not a bad idea at all!