Kensuke Koike transforms vintage photos into visual magic




The rapid advances of imaging technologies over the last two decades sometimes lead us to forget that, not so long ago, digital tools would not have been the first port of call for image making. Particularly in the design industry, it is easy to default straight to using the tablet and the Adobe Creative Suite for ideation and prototyping. However, as digital tools become increasingly automated and able to do more and more complex tasks for us, it is worth considering how important hands-on skills still are. There is a deep satisfaction to be had with the direct connection between the hand, an analogue tool, and the tactility of materials like paper, glue, pencils, paint. Making things by hand enables more senses — not only touch, but smell, and hearing — to be engaged in the process. Perhaps switching between analogue and digital tools throughout the creative process might enhance the outcome, no matter what the discipline.

One key difference between digital and analogue tools is the Command-Z / Control-Z shortcut, or lack thereof. Going back is not so easy in the analogue. The delete button and its pixel-vanishing tidyness are not available. Instead, one must learn to exercise more focus, planning, precision. If anyone knows how to exercise these three virtues, it is Kensuke Koike. Kensuke Koike is an artist whose work I first encountered on Instagram. Its quaint vintage appearance is somewhat at odds with the social platform associated with selfies and trend-driven snaps. Working directly with original found material, the artist slices, collages, and weaves images to surprisingly delightful results. Koike has a number of ongoing series that use different approaches to making work. The most notable series are “Single Image Processing” and “Today’s Curiosity.” In “Single Image Processing,” he restricts himself to working with one photograph only, cutting out parts and switching them around, or simply turning the paper over to profoundly alter the original image. It is an exercise that demonstrates just how much can be achieved with very little, if done with deep consideration and intent. “Today’s Curiosity” swings in the other direction — maximum inventiveness and impact. Here, Koike turns 2D photographs into silly contraptions, transforming them into mechanical toys. His pasta machine method is an especially fun one to borrow for experimentation.

Kensuke Koike was born in Japan and is currently based in the village of Šempas in Slovenia. He has exhibited most widely in Italy, but has been gaining recognition world wide. He currently a piece of work in The Design Museum’s exhibition Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18. Be sure to discover more of his image magic on his website and his regularly updated Instagram feed.