Collage artist Nozomi Fujita's daily life, a cycle of destruction and regeneration. "Listening Museum #12"

"HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM ~Listening Museum~" is a podcast that focuses on artists contracted to the welfare experimental company Heralbony.

Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker, and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, CEO of HERALBONY, will be the interviewers. As they listen carefully to the art, they will touch upon the personality and life story of this "unique artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

This time we will be introducing Norihito Fujita, an artist who mainly works on collages. He talked about how he was able to turn his fascination with logos, which he had been drawn to since he was a child, into a piece of art, and how his mother, Shizue, has seen Norihito's growth.

#Encounter led by a sign pole

Takaya: Today we have an artist called Fujita Nozomi from Oita, Kyushu with us. I'm a huge fan of Fujita's work, and I hope to own one someday. His works are collages. It's like paper is layered on top of paper. For example, in his apple work, apples are cut out and layered on top of each other. It's really interesting. Also, there's a piece I'd really like to hear more about today. In his piece "Tototo," there's the word "hohoho" written behind it, and I'm wondering why there are words written on it.

Ogawa: I also saw the actual Heralbony at the "ART IN YOU" exhibition the other day, and the piece with the word "tototo" written on it immediately caught my eye. I wondered how it was made, and when I looked closely, I saw that it was cut and pasted together.

Takaya: That's right! It's a style that is full of taste and has a bit of a shadowy feel, so I would be happy if you would search for "Fujita Heralbony" and listen to it.

Ogawa: Yes! So, today we have Fujita Norito and his mother, Shizue.

Shizue: Nice to meet you.

Takaya: Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. It looks like you've left your seat, Mr. Norihito?

Shizue: Yes. I'm sitting on the sofa in the back, listening to music on my iPad. Relaxing (laughs).

Takaya: That's great!

Ogawa: I see, I said hello in advance. I look forward to meeting you today!

Ogawa: I understand you are currently living in Oita Prefecture. Is that your home?

Shizue: Yes! It was in my living room at home.

Ogawa: Mr. Norihito, you seem to spend your time relaxing at home, but have you always been drawing in your current style?

Shizue: No, I've only been making collages for a few years now. I used to love letters and store logos, and those were the first things I started drawing. I started drawing when I was in the third grade of elementary school.

Ogawa: I see. What kind of logos or marks did you like?

Shizue-san: Aeon logos, supermarkets, and also things like barbershop signs and poles.

Takaya: Actually, the Sign Pole reminded me of my meeting with Nozomi Fujita. I think it was around 2021 at HERALBONY. We held something like a handkerchief award. We received thousands of submissions, and the title of Fujita's work that we thought was the coolest was "Sign Pole." From there, that work became a handkerchief, we had an exhibition at the HERALBONY gallery, and we became involved in many different ways. "Sign Pole" was how we met.

"Sign Pole" by Nozomi Fujita

Ogawa: I have a piece of work that is a painting of a "sign pole" in my handbook, and it's really cool! It's amazing to see the red, white, and blue pole at the entrance of a barber shop turn out like this! Is this all cut, pasted, and layered?

Shizue: Yes.

Ogawa: Wow, that's interesting! Have you been drawing things you see around town since you were little?

Shizue-san: At first, I just stared at things. When I saw a store sign, I didn't go in, I just wandered around and stared blankly, just staring at it. On the other hand, it was like I couldn't go in even if I wanted to.

Ogawa: Yes, yes.

Shizue-san: So, since we couldn't get in, if there was a flyer with the same logo as us at a store or supermarket, we would cut it out and give it to them. When we went shopping, we would take it with us so that we wouldn't stop there.

Ogawa: I really love the logo and want to see it!

Shizue: Yes, that's right. It really felt like I was just staring at it forever.

Takaya: I feel that Fujita-san's style is very similar to my brother's in many ways. My brother's notebooks in elementary school were full of logos. Tohoku Bank, Iwate Bank, Lotte, etc. He really drew those logos. Among them, there were dozens of books with two "Heralbony Heralbony" logos lined up one above the other. I think that for my brother, it was like a company logo or mark. So I think that people with strong autistic tendencies are often obsessed with shapes and patterns like that. When I look at Fujita-san's work, I think there are some parts that remind me of my brother.

Ogawa: Wow. What prompted you to start drawing pictures of logos and things like that after just looking at them at first?

Takaya: That's true.

Shizue: He would lose the scraps of flyers he had in his hand. It was like, "Why would you lose something so important?" He would lose them and panic, so I had no choice but to draw "Dad" on a piece of paper I had at hand. Then he would ask me to draw, draw. If I stopped drawing, he would panic, so there were times when I had to draw for hours.

Takaya: Ahahaha! Amazing!

Ogawa: That's amazing...

Takaya: What kind of logo did you draw?

Shizue: I was constantly made to draw supermarket logos (laughs).

Takaya: Ah, I heard Norihito's voice. I wonder if Norihito will be there? Is it difficult?

Shizue: Come take a peek! Come take a peek! Please come!

Takaya: I can see you sitting on the sofa behind us right now.

Ogawa: He stood up for a moment, maybe to get something?

Takaya: Maybe he was reacting to the name of the supermarket.

Shizue: Maybe (laughs).

Ogawa: Your mother first drew the logo for you, so at what point did you start drawing it yourself?

Shizue: Once I started making him draw logos, he couldn't do anything, so I thought I had to do something. I asked the occupational therapist at the special education center I was going to at the time if he liked it so much that he should draw it himself. He started practicing drawing with me. However, since he was moving around a lot, we started by training him to sit down. The occupational therapist first trained him to hold a pencil and sit in a chair, and I think it was around the time he started elementary school that he was able to draw with a weak pen pressure like a worm crawling. He started special education when he was about 4 or 5 years old.

Ogawa: So it takes about 3 to 4 years?

Shizue: But even though I was able to draw, I wasn't used to it, so I think it wasn't until I was in the third grade of elementary school that I really started drawing on my own. It was a long process, little by little.

Ogawa: I see. That's how you learn and start drawing by yourself.

(Mr. Nozomi passes behind the screen)

Ogawa: Ah, Mr. Norihito just passed by!

Takaya: Please, go ahead!

Nozomi: A red pen.

Shizue: A red pen. Here you go. (Hands over the pen)

Takaya: You came to get a pen, so does that mean you're going to draw something? You're sitting at the desk behind me.

Takaya: That's true. Will something be drawn?

Shizue: Whenever I feel like I'm about to draw something, it's always like this. I just suddenly start doing something.

Ogawa: Wow! Do you spend a lot of time drawing when you're at home?

Shizue: It's not like, "Okay, let's draw," but more like I go in and draw a little bit in between my daily life like I do now. I draw, then stand up again, and stagger around, and draw a little bit in between.

Ogawa: Wow! You said that you had drawn a picture of an apple before this recording.

Takaya: What kind of pictures are drawn?

(Shizue shows me a picture)

Ogawa: Wow! That's cool!

Takaya: It's exactly the same apple as in that piece.

Ogawa: Next to the apple, his mother drew his self-introduction: "My name is Fujita Nozomi. My favorite food is apples."

Takaya: That's great! I hope I can hear your voice later!

Ogawa: Even now you continue to create works behind the scenes, but what kind of art materials do you usually use?

Shizue: I generally use a lot of crayons, but I also have a lot of ballpoint pens.

Ogawa: Wow.

Takaya: At the recent "ART IN YOU" (※) exhibition, both of Fujita's works were the first to be sold.

"ART IN YOU Art is within you"
The event will be held at the Earth Garden on the 1st floor of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation's East Building from May 20th to June 17th, 2023.

(Mr. Nozomi comes to the screen holding something.)

Ogawa: Oh, did you bring some artwork with you?

Shizue: Do you understand? (laughs)

Takaya: Oh, it says "Toys R Us" here!

Ogawa: Really! It's "Toys" R" Us! And this was just drawn on the iPad behind me, right? Isn't it so cool!

Takaya: I think he's asking to see this.

Shizue: Maybe (laughs).

Takaya: I'm sure there will be some profit from the sales of the original artwork this time, so I hope my mom will buy me something I like at Toys R Us (laughs).

Shizue: I'll consider it! Positively. Hehehe!

#Unforgettable words from my son

Ogawa: This is how more and more works are produced every day.

Takaya: Fujita's work is really cool! The person who bought Fujita's work was the president of a well-known company, and he contacted me and said, "I think I made a really good purchase." I got the feeling that he might become a great collector.

Ogawa: So what this means is that people listening to this podcast might have the opportunity to pick up one of Fujita's works.

Takaya: Yes, really! I have a feeling that Fujita's work will be featured more and more in the future. I want one too.

Ogawa: I think it might resonate with people who like hip hop as well.

Takaya: Exactly! SHIPS was selling long-sleeved T-shirts with Fujita's work printed on them. I really think that one day he'll be involved in street culture or skateboarding.

Ogawa: A skateboard would definitely be great. I think it would be really cool if it had this design on it!

Takaya: Mr. Norihito, do you ever say things like, "Put my picture here?"

Shizue: I don't know how much she understands, but she's started bringing in pictures she's drawn, like she does now. She never did that before. She used to draw and place pictures she'd drawn in her room, but now she's started bringing pictures to me of her own accord.

Ogawa: Wow!

Shizue: So, it seems like he knows that the paintings are out and about somewhere. Of course, I take him to all the exhibitions I can, so I think he knows there too.

Ogawa: For example, what was your reaction when you saw your paintings made into clothes or displayed in a gallery?

Shizue: It was surprisingly cool (laughs).

Ogawa: That's cool.

Shizue-san: But when I took his picture in front of the exhibit, he gave me a peace sign. He didn't have that "it's mine" vibe, but when I tried to take a picture in front of him, he came over, so I wondered if he sensed something.

Takaya: I'm sure he could sense that his mother was happy, and things like that.

Shizue: I feel that way a lot. When the items are exhibited or sold, people say all sorts of things to me, so I think that the person himself is happy that I and the people around him are happy. Very much.

Ogawa: I'm sure you've shared a lot of joys and sorrows together in your life up until now, but is there anything in particular that has made an impression on you or that you remember fondly from your time with Noboruto?

Shizue: This is actually quite recent, but in the spring I got a little sick and had to be hospitalized for about two weeks.

Ogawa: I see.

Shizue: At that time, Nozomi was admitted to the facility for a short period of time, so I was supposed to be admitted during that time, but we had never been apart for that long, and it was also my first time living alone in a facility, so I was really worried... The night before, while I was helping him with his bath, I was telling him earnestly, "Let's do this, let's do that." Then he suddenly said, "Don't worry!"

Takaya: Wow, that's great!

Shizue: I was a little more surprised. Usually, he expresses his needs through words, so it's difficult to have a conversation with him. But then he said, "Don't worry," and it was a shock to me... I'll never forget it. I was able to believe in Nozomi, and finally I was able to worry about my own body and say, "I'm okay now." I really owe it all to Nozomi.

Ogawa: That's amazing...

Takaya: I'm sure you had some inklings about what was going on. By the way, there was a similar story when my older brother's favorite show, "Buratamori," ended. The end of "Buratamori" was a big event for him.

Ogawa: It's part of the routine.

Takaya: Right. So my mother kept telling me for months, "Buratamori will end on this date, Buratamori will end," and my brother also said, "Buratamori will end on this date!" But after the show really ended, he never said a word about Buratamori again.

Ogawa: Your brother also sensed something.

Takaya: Sorry, but of course it's on a different level from what Shizue and Nozomi said! How was Nozomi when she returned from the facility?

Shizue: Well, when he came back, Nozomi had lost about 6kg... (laughs).

Ogawa: Aaah!

Takaya: I guess he was so shocked he couldn't even swallow it.

Shizue: Well, I'm a bit picky about what I eat. I only eat what I can eat out of what's served to me, so I inevitably lose weight. But I was eating everything I could eat. I lost 6kg, so I was a bit thinner, and I was like, "What?!" It was a shock. But I gained the weight back in no time, so it's okay (laughs).

Takaya: That's good.

Ogawa: What kind of food do you usually eat at home, Norihito?

Shizue: I love noodles. I often eat udon and soba. I also like sweet things, like chocolate. I love sweets.

# The perspective of art that changes the world

Ogawa: Besides drawing, what do you like to do?

Shizue: I love walking around and listening to music on my iPad.

Ogawa: You like music, don't you?

Shizue: That's right. I tend to be visually dominant, so I used to have a stronger preference for looking, but since I got an iPad, I've been searching for music and playing it all the time, even though I haven't told him to.

Takaya: By the way, what kind of music do you like?

Shizue: I really love "Okaasan to Issho" so I like nursery rhymes and the opening songs of TV shows for children. Also, I remembered from "Buratamori" that Nozomi also likes Tamori quite a bit.

Takaya: Amazing! Really?! Tamori-san must really like those glasses and ties, especially the glasses. Whenever he goes to Aeon, he stops at the glasses counter and stays there for about an hour.

Ogawa: Amazing!

Takaya: Even though I know I'll never buy them, I still carefully choose glasses. Also, I like kind-looking older men.

Ogawa: Then Tamori has it all!

Takaya: That’s exactly right (laughs).

Shizue: There was a show called "Waratte Iitomo," right? I've listened to the songs on "Telephone Shocking" from that show over and over again.

Ogawa: It's true that it's addictive, and you can get addicted to it.

Takaya: Do you guys like Norihito hum along to music or something?

Shizue: I don't really hum along to music, but I was forced to speak mysterious words.

Takaya: We're being forced to do it too.

Ogawa: What kind of word is it?

Shizue: When Norihito said "To!", I had to say "Ma!". When he said "Toba-san" I had to say "No way!", when he said "Clinic!" I had to say "Patent!", etc. It was all a bit unrelated (laughs).

Takaya: Yes, I know! What is it? We have it at home too. For example, if my brother asks me "Do you have breakfast?" I have to say "No!" and then I laugh. Even if we don't understand what's funny about it, it must be really funny to him. I think that's the strange thing about people with autism and intellectual disabilities, and I hope it will lead to respect for their sense of humor that we don't have.

Ogawa: But being able to have fun and play with words is very creative, isn't it?

Takaya: That's true. I think there's something about the way the words feel good, or how it's pleasant to listen to, that's common to hip-hop and stuff like that. Rhyming, for example. I felt that way in Nozomi's songs "Hohoho" and "Tototo."

Ogawa: You said earlier that you exchange the word "to" with your mother, and the word "to" appears in your paintings as well, so maybe you draw with the same feeling as if you were playing with words.

Takaya: I think so. Since your mother encountered Heralbony, do you think there has been any change, even the slightest, in Nozomi, yourself, or the people around you?

Shizue: It's not just a little bit, I think it was destined to happen. After all, receiving the handkerchief award for "Sign Pole" was a big, big turning point for me. After he learned how to draw, Nozomi drew in a lot of different places. If I move this, will it be visible?

(Shizue moves the screen to show the wall of her house)

Takaya: Ah! There are pictures all over the walls!

Ogawa: Amazing!

Takaya: The walls become art...

Shizue: My previous house was even more amazing. I had a lot of drawings on the sliding doors and everywhere. To me, it was just scribbling or problematic behavior, so when I started to think of art as something that I could do, my world changed. My perspective changed, and I would say my life itself changed. I was so shocked that I wondered if meeting HERALBONY was really fate.

Takaya: Thank you very much. I'm glad to hear that! It's a truly wonderful piece of art. Mr. Kurosawa, the curator of the Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, also praised it highly, so it certainly has an exciting appeal. If you have a chance, please frame it on your wall and sell it! No, that's going too far though (laughs).

Shizue: Ahahaha!

Ogawa: So, is there anything that you and your mother would like to do together in the future, or anything that you would like to do with Heralbony?

Shizue: HERALBONY always says that they want to "change the image of disabilities," and I really sympathize with that. Meeting people with disabilities through their works and exhibitions is wonderful and sparkling. I also want to create many such opportunities and be present at them, so I would be happy if I could be blessed with many such opportunities. I personally think it would be fun to create a place like an atelier or gallery where many people can visit and have wonderful encounters, and I hope that with HERALBONY's power, such opportunities for encounters can be expanded overseas and even wider, creating many more opportunities for encounters. It's a dream.

Takaya: That's wonderful!

Ogawa: And now, Mr. Norihito has stood up and is walking around the room. Can you hear his voice?

Shizue: Nozomi-kun! Please come! Thank you.

Nozomi: Yes.

(Mr. Nozomi answers but doesn't come near him.)

Shizue: I did say "yes."

Ogawa: But I can hear you from this distance, so it should be okay. Shall I ask you what your favorite food is? Should I ask your mother?

Shizue: Will you come? Come, come! Will you come last?

(Mr. Nozomi, in front of the screen)

Takaya: Awesome!

Ogawa: I'm happy!

Shizue: Shall I introduce myself again?

Nozomi: Yes. My name is.... My favorite food is apples.

(Mr. Nozomi goes back.)

Takaya: Thank you! That's great.

Ogawa: You've already fulfilled your role. I'm glad I was able to finally hear it! And Takaya, there will be a chance to see Fujita Nozomi's art, right?

Takaya: That's right. July 24, 2023 will be the 5th anniversary of HERALBONY. To commemorate this, we will be holding a pop-up shop called "Isai no Hyakkaten" on the first floor of Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Store from July 26 to August 8. We have also used Fujita's work as the key visual.

"Celebration" by Nozomi Fujita

Ogawa: Wow! It really does have Heralbony written on it!

Takaya: That's right. This is a joint project with the 350th anniversary of Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, so Fujita's original work includes the numbers "350", "HERALBONY", and "MITSUKOSHI", and it's a wonderful piece that incorporates all of these elements. Fujita's work will be used as the key visual and will be displayed in various places, so we hope you will all come and see it.

Ogawa: I'll definitely go see it too! I hope everyone will also check it out. So, Fujita Nozomi and her mother, Shizue, thank you so much for the wonderful talk today!

Shizue: Thank you!

Nozomi Fujita

Born in Oita City in 2001. At the age of three, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder accompanied by severe intellectual disability. He currently attends the Yamabiko Hiroba (life support) run by the Kofuku-kai Social Welfare Corporation. He has a strong preference for logos and letters, and since he was in elementary school he has been drawing things he likes almost every day. His drawing style is unique, and although he is hyperactive and always walking around, he will suddenly sit down and start drawing, making his drawing style unpredictable. 

"HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM ~Listening Museum~" is now available for free

Based on the concept of "imagining the history of an unconventional artist through his art," this program listens closely to the art and touches upon the personality and life story of one "unconventional artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

The two MCs are Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, CEO of HERALBONY. Each episode focuses on a writer under contract with HERALBONY, and welcomes intellectually disabled writers, their families and welfare facility staff as guests.

It is available every Sunday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

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