by Ariadna Zierold

hhh gallery, monochrome, exhibition, tokyo, usugrow, mike giant

This past month the HHH Gallery in Tokyo showed Monochrome, a group exhibition curated by Japanese artist Usugrow.

“Today, the world is brimming with information and a wide variety of techniques, painting tools, and art styles are introduced, but I wanted to think about this in a simple way and let people know that [they] can still show wonderful expression using only simple tools like normal paper, pencil, and ink. Most of the artists participating in Monochrome are originally my friends, except Kyotaro and Ozabu, who I’ve been a fan of for a while. Each artist thoroughly mastered one writing instrument such as a marker, pencil, ballpoint pen, or ink pen. What’s interesting is that all of them use [tools] that are usually categorized as ordinary stationary, not a special writing tool. That means you don’t have to buy lots of paints or brushes to start your art.”

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The tools these artists used are simple: pencils, mechanical pencils, black markers, ink pens, ink brushes, and everyday ballpoint pens. However, by carefully utilizing white space not as “blank,” but rather as information to describe space and color, the artists transform pure, untouched white canvases and paper into detailed and complex monochrome landscapes. To achieve this, the artists must enter a fierce yet meditative state of resolve as they add lines to slowly weave their worlds.


The exhibition featured the work from Aaron Horkey, Mike Giant, Shohei, Kyotaro, Toshikazu Nozaka, Ozabu, Sadam and Usugrow.

mike giant, monochrome, hhh gallery, tokyo, upper playground, the citrus report

This was the first-ever Japan exhibition for artists Aaron Horkey and Mike Giant.


Ariadna Zierold

Upper Playground Exclusive: New Work by Usugrow at Café Des Epices in Marrakech, Morocco

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Renown Japanese artist and muralist, Usugrow, completes a new wall in the heart of the Medina at Rahba Kedima spice square of Marrakech, Morocco. Curated by Valerie Liais du Rocher of Studio IWA with support from Upper Playground, the mural covers the facade of the well known Cafe Des Epices featuring Usugrow’s signature hand style.  Combining his knowledge of Kanji (Japanese), Arabic and English Calligraphy, Usugrow once again reinvents his free hand. Check out the photos by contributing photographer, Raphael Liais  for Upper Playground:

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This wall was made possible by support from Valerie Liais du Rocher of Studio IWA x Upper Playground.

For more information about the artist visit usugrow.com and follow his instagram @usugrow.

Free Usugrow Print with Each Online Purchase at Upper Playground

For a limited time, Upper Playground and creator of ‘Shinganist’, Usugrow, is giving away one FREE 8×10 inch print with each online purchase at upperplayground.com.  The deal is only good while supplies last so be sure to take on the opportunity while it’s still available.


The beautiful 8×10 print is from Usugrow’s HASADHU series from his work titled ‘CREATION’ done with ink on paper, currently on display at Fifty24SF Gallery. Usugrow’s solo show ‘INKFLOW’ will be open to the public until Sunday, November 23.  Check out the gallery website for more information.

Related Articles:

New Mural by Usugrow at Upper Playground SF

Exclusive Interview with Usugrow

New Shinganist T-shirts by Usugrow

New Mural at Fifty24SF Gallery by Usugrow

New Mural by Usugrow at Upper Playground San Francisco

Japanese illustrator and calligraphist, Usugrow who opened his solo show ‘INKFLOW’ at Fifty24SF Gallery this past weekend just completed a second wall at Upper Playground, San Francisco.  Titled ‘ Talking with Moon’ the wide mural with sloped repeat patterns of the letter ‘I” has the meaning of the  “Eye” and the self ‘I” spreading out from the corner ‘Moon’.  usugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflowusugrow-upperplayground-Moon-Eye-inkflow

New Shinganist T-shirt Designs by Usugrow

Upper Playground and Usugrow is proud to release two new designs for the UP Shinganist collection.  The two designs which showcase Usugrow’s signature calligraphic style will be available in Black, White and in Grey.  Released just in time for the artist’s opening of his solo show, ‘INKFLOW’ at Fifty24SF Gallery, these shirts will sell out fast so grab them while you can.


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‘On the Road’:

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Upper Playground Exclusive: Interview with Japanese artist, USUGROW

Upper Playground’s long time friend and contributing artist, USUGROW, made his way from Tokyo to San Francisco this month for his solo exhibit, “INKFLOW” at Fifty24SF Gallery.


The artist hit the ground running with a Book Signing and Print Release at Upper Playground SF last weekend.  The renown artist recognized around the world for his signature black and white illustrations, lettering and ink works is currently installing his highly anticipated show opening this Saturday, October 4th at 7PM.  We caught up with USUGROW for an exclusive interview with the artist.  Interview by Jy-ah Min:

Tell us about the theme of your show “INKFLOW”. Will it have any connections to your last show at Fifty24SF Gallery in 2007?

U: There is no special meaning to “INKFLOW”. I just like the words and feel that they are very fitting for my style at this time, because of their simplicity.


The ‘Skulls’ in your work have a unique style to them. How did you get started in incorporating them into your work, and has it evolved over time?

U: I used to like the way that a person’s mad or scary face looked on their head and realized I was actually seeing their skull behind it. I started to see skulls and skeletons in another dimension and appreciated their beauty and simplicity. Now I focus on the positive side of skeletons instead of the negative.


You explained in the past that your signature use of Black and White was born from economy and restriction. What led you to work primarily in Black and White?

U: I started out working on flyers for the hardcore and underground punk scene, where we used to photocopy flyers in B/W and make screen prints for  t-shirts. Black and white is always cheaper than full color which is how I got started. So it started for economic reasons and for simplicity’s sake and I have stayed with it ever since.


You seem to draw many references from other languages than your own.  Any significant influences in your calligraphic work?

U: I’ve always had an open mind and strongly dislike being categorized. I use what I want and try not to compartmentalize myself.


What is the conceptual preparation required for your hand inked artworks?  Do you go through several drafts in the process?

U: Yes sometimes, when there is a request from the client for commissioned work. For my personal work, I’m making up a story from my imagination and creating from my minds eye. I enjoy working in both ways.


Many people identify your style as having strong references to chicano tattoo cultures born from Southern California.  Do you find this to be true?

U: Yes, that is one of my inspirations but just a part.


Your latest print release with Upper Playground is a third edition of the KOKUTEN series titled ‘Shijima’. Could you explain a bit more about your subject matter, Kokuten, the messenger of sun and moon in this series?

U: Kokuten is the messenger from the sun. The sun and the moon are just like yin and yang except in front and behind instead of side by side but still all in one. Kokuten is simply a portrait. There is technology all over the place in our human world, we all need to make time to communicate to the sun and the moon. Kokuten literally means “sun spot” in Japanese, in Japan the icon for the sun spot is the black crow, the messenger of the sun.


And finally, What music is playing in the background while you work in your studio in Tokyo?

U: I play every different kind of music in the background: hardcore, metal, electro, hip-hop and lately I’ve been playing a lot of indigenous/ world music from around the globe all the time. I don’t believe in written down/ textbook history. I learn real history from the indigenous/ world music that has been handed down directly from generation to generation.



“INKFLOW” by USUGROW opens October 4th at Fifty24SF Gallery


Japanese illustrator and famed calligraphist, USUGROW, who also developed the ‘Shinganist’ Brand, is opening, “INKFLOW”, a solo exhibition at Fifty24SF Gallery next week.


“INKFLOW” opens Saturday, October 4th, 7PM at Fifty24SF Gallery located at 218 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94117.  Upper Playground will also be open special hours on opening night, well into the evening.

Upper Playground Releases Latest Book by Japanese Artist and Illustrator USUGROW



In conjunction to Usugrow‘s return to San Francisco for his solo show, ‘INKFLOW‘ at Fifty24SF Gallery, Upper Playground is proud to release this week, ‘USUGROW: Works 2007-2013’. A 180 page compilation of the Japanese artist and illustrator’s best selected works from the last seven years. Available in stores and online right here.

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