Rene Wanner's Poster Page


Graphic Cosmos - The world of Shin Matsunaga

Shueisha, 2-5-10 Hitotsubashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (1997)
tel 81-3-3230-6320, fax 81-3-3262-1309
312 pages, 420 color reproductions, 22 x 17 cm; ISBN 4-08-532052-1; 3873 Yen
in japanese and english

I knew from the beginning that it would be a joy to read this book, from the velvet feel of the paper, and its eye pleasing tint, from its handy size and from the intensity of its many illustrations.

But I was not prepared for the fact that it would grab me like a suspense novel, and only when I had read all the stories, looked at all the pictures and reached the last pages, did I surface again and felt happy but sad that the pleasure was already over...

I don't have to spend too many words on the biographical facts about graphic designer and Warsaw Biennale gold medal winner Shin Matsunaga. His career and achievements are well described elsewhere. The book was made for an exhibition of his complete works at the Takaoka Art Museum in 1996, and is published by Shueisha, Japan's largest magazine publisher, with whom he has cooperated for the last 25 years. About one third of the volume is on posters, the rest on package design, logos, books and calendars. Finally we get a glimpse at Matsunaga's "night time works" or "freaks", as he calls it, free graphics and small metal sculptures.

There are contributions in the book by Lou Dorfsman, Yusaku Kamekura, Ikko Tanaka and others, who point out the wide scope of Matsunaga's style, and its simplicity. He uses with equal ease abstract shapes, photography, painting, typography, computer graphics in his posters, and does it with the same power and elegance for cosmetics, art exhibitions, magazines, theater plays or social posters. Amazing. Some of the illustrations are unavoidably quit small, but the concentration of Matsunaga's works and the excellent printing quality is ample compensation for this.

New Music Media
1976, poster for concert, Mei Corp.

1986, Japan Graphic Designers Association
Gold medal at 12th Int. Poster Biennale, Warsaw

1994, Japan Design Commitee
The really fascinating part of the book however are not the texts by his friends and admirers - their conclusions become obvious when you look at the posters - but Matsunaga's own comments about his life and work. Born 1940 in Tokyo, his early youth was shaped by the flight of his family from the bombed out city, the stay at an overcrowded farm, the first contact with the unfamiliar american soldiers and their way of life. But there is no bitterness, quite the opposite, the young boy enjoyed the company of the many people he met, admired the Lucky Strike cigarette packages and was dazzled by the badges of the occupants: "Those impressions and memories from the poverty-stricken years in the wake of war are perhaps the greatest asset of my life".

Among other stories, there is also a lecture on Corporate Identity where Matsunaga advises a meeting of japanese city mayors to first clean up the mess in their bike parking lots before calling in a graphic designer to give City Hall a new image. You begin to understand the reasons behind the uncompromising beauty of Matsunaga's posters.

Enough said. Do yourself a favor, get this book.

Exhibition at Gallery GGG Gallery, Tokyo (1987)
TDC Annual 1999 Members' Gold Prize
TDC Annual 1990 Members' Bronze Prize
JAGDA Who's who
Ogaki Poster Museum
Takenaka Gallery

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