Shovelhead's outrageous techno art
By Mike Hanlon
January 20, 2012
You may have already come in contact with the work of techno-artist Yasuhito Udagawa (AKA Shovelhead) before and not realized it. He has created many of the theme icons of major exhibitions and shows over the last decade, and has become far better known since his sponsorship by Nike. Shovelhead's work is mesmerizing.
A Japanese salaryman who found himself jobless in 1995 when the company he worked for went into bankruptcy, Yasuhito turned to his passion for making models and his fertile imagination and attention to fabricating the minutest detail have propelled him to the brink of superstardom.
At first I thought it astonishing to see so many of Shovelhead's artworks in one place. I knew maybe 20 or 30 of them through photographs and posters, but the photographs don't capture the lifelike qualities and incredible detail that are evident when you're only inches away from them. Authenticity appears to be there all the way to the molecular level - it doesn't look like a model - it looks real.
People were stopping at the stand a lot longer than at other stands at iREX in Tokyo last November - seemingly by a factor of ten or more.
The Shovelhead exhibit looked like it had been tacked on at the end of one of the show aisles - like the budget stands they couldn't sell - and as the crowds would trickle past heading for the next aisle, those that got within eyeshot would be drawn into the exhibition as they suddenly realized what was on display. Almost without fail, the attention levels of those who were sucked into the display soon reached 100 percent.
You can quite literally gaze at one of his models for hours, so the queue was always so long that we went before opening one day to get some clear shots of the artworks.
The commissioned prices paid for the artworks are all clearly visible on the show cards - astonishingly cheap by today's prices. I expect that as time goes by, and more people get to see the amazing complexity of his steampunk creations, the number of zeroes on the end of these prices will be three or four orders of magnitude greater. If there was an artist I could invest in right now, I'd choose Shovelhead.
The artworks photographed are sometimes named, sometimes named in Japanese and sometimes in English, so if you can identify any of these artworks, please use the comments section.
Shovelhead's web site is also worth a visit - you just never know when one of his amazing artworks may be somewhere near you.