An Interview with Erika Shiba
Erika Shiba is an artist who specializes in making highly detailed and intricate work through printmaking methods. The subjects of her work range from distorted faces, humanoid beings with augmentations, and mechanical environments. We recently got the chance to interview Erika about her process, and what inspires the work she creates.
Danielle Duemesi: Your work has a lot of facially and bodily warped caricatures and creatures, but it’s interesting because despite these distortions an audience is still clued into understanding it as a face or a humanoid being. What is your creative process in making these distortions? How do you decide what aspects to over exaggerate, or what other features to implement on a face?
Erika Shiba: I first started creating these anthropomorphic figures with the desire to showcase and exaggerate different emotions that are usually hidden in a person. Recently I have been extending this idea by making them more intricate and introducing aspects of problem solving with the hope that the viewer can engage with them for longer. By doing so, I want to invite the audience to plug in their own experiences and memories to the fictional creatures and build their own logic. I try to keep them pretty ambiguous; I tend not to associate them with a gender or a culture, as I want the public to find ways to relate with them even on the slightest scale.
Danielle Duemesi: A lot of your art is made through various forms of printmaking. Was there anything that stuck out about this medium that made you decide this was the way you preferred to exhibit and create your art?
Erika Shiba: I immersed myself in printmaking around 2 years ago when I fell in love with its process, history and versatility. Etching, which is a process in which a needle is used to create marks, grabbed my attention first as I saw a great chance to explore the meticulous mark making I use in my drawings further. As I pursued etching as a technique, I familiarized myself with other printmaking methods whilst I spent time in the shop and learnt that the images I make can be translated onto mediums other than paper. From there I experimented with printing on fabrics, wood and clay to see how far I can translate 2D images to 3D.
Another aspect that I was attracted to was the community; every printshop that I have been part of has a welcoming environment which allowed me to meet and interact with creatives with other backgrounds that I would have never met otherwise. The versatility of the medium also meant that different artists, whether it’d be a fashion student silkscreening their collections or a product design student etching a 6” thick copper to use as a part of their product, used the communal space in their own ways. There is no sense of competition in printmaking and just a lot of sharing of ideas.
Danielle Duemesi: Some of your work displays a lot of architectural planning, adding a mechanical environment to your illustrations. By creating a sense of setting, are you hoping to convey an idea of a world or story to these illustrations? If so, what are you telling your audience?
Erika Shiba: I’ve been exploring the tension between fantasy and logic; by placing these fantastical figures in a space that is reminiscent of architecture in our real world, I want to prompt the audience to question what they consider as real or as truths.
Danielle Duemesi: How has New York influenced your work as an illustrator? Do you feel its had any impression on your development as an artist?
Erika Shiba: Absolutely. I crossed paths with people that have immense drive and big dreams that pushed me to aspire to do the same. I became close with people that I shared a lot of similarities with, and also those who are the polar opposites; what they all had in common were their grind and creative energy. The city also taught me a lot about navigating the hard realities of life as an artist and life in general. I learnt how to be more assertive and confident for myself, but remain kind, conscientious and supportive of one another.
Danielle Duemesi: Where else do you find inspiration for your work? Do you have any artists or works of art that have influenced the way you create?
Erika Shiba: When I think of monochromatic imagery that has been inspiring me, Raymond Pettibon, Ryan Travis Christian and Grady Gordon comes to mind. It is always nice to see a Dali or Magritte painting I’d never seen before at a museum. I have also currently been using visual inspirations I have collected subconsciously from things like architectural blueprints, exploded diagrams, medical illustrations and layouts of textbooks to create a fake informative world.
Danielle Duemesi: What are you currently working on? What can your followers expect to see from you in the future?
Erika Shiba: I think one of the most exciting things for an artist is the opportunity to collaborate with other creatives. For the last couple of months Sabrina Wong, who is a professional dancer/choreographer, and I have been working on a collaboration. Using our shared experience of growing up as Third Culture Kids in a westernized Asian culture, we are hoping to explore the challenges of “identity” multicultural individuals experience.