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Mexican graffiti artist welcomes Tokyoites to 'kawaii' universe exhibit

Graffiti artist Tysa Paulina with some of her works at the Montana Shop Tokyo, in Minato Ward, on April 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Peter Masheter)

TOKYO -- A Mexican graffiti artist is adorning walls with her Japan-inspired "kawaii" universe at an exhibition in the capital's Minato Ward from April 18 to 20.

Tysa Paulina, 30, the only female member of Latin American graffiti group "Animal Power Crew" (APC), is holding an exhibition of her works on take-home ready paper, wood, embroidery and other materials at the Montana Shop Tokyo, the flagship store of the first spray paint made specifically for graffiti. Through her art, Tysa hopes to create a universal language that transcends borders and cultures.

A flyer for the event courtesy of Tysa Paulina and Montana Shop Tokyo.

The artist was born in Mexico City and began her graffiti career at 16, after being exposed to it as an art form in high school. Speaking through a translator to The Mainichi, Tysa said its appeal came initially from the medium's artistic demands. "I always only painted in small formats, paper or canvas. I noticed that if you want to make something good on a wall it requires a lot of technique."

She's always been a rule-breaker and a risk-taker. When she started out, she knew of only about five other women in the graffiti scene. Her art style, too, is a significant departure from typical graffiti art styles, which focus on "tagging" and "bombing" style lettering. Instead, she paints vibrant, psychedelic and colorful characters.

Tysa's art style has always been influenced by Japanese aesthetics. Her love of Japanese culture, particularly "kawaii," or cute, characters and universes began when she first saw anime on television. The first time she heard the word "Japan" was when she asked her father where anime was made. Tysa added that she loves anime for its ability to transport you to completely different universes and realities. Her biggest influences are the many characters of Sanrio Co. and the anime and manga classic "Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon" by Naoko Takeuchi and originally aired by TV Asahi.

Her work also calls to mind the muralist movement that began in early 20th century Mexico, when artists would paint scenes conveying social and political messages on public buildings.

"At that moment, I didn't realize I was making a new art proposal" by incorporating characters, she explained. "In my mind, you take a huge risk when you do graffiti." For her, if an artist was going to take that risk, the resulting expression should be on a much larger scale than lettering -- "go big or go home."

Tysa stands in front of an array of Montana spray-cans, the world's first spray paint specifically for graffiti, in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on April 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Alina Kordesch)

Tysa hopes to convey a sense of universality and self-knowledge through her art that transcends language and even the reality we perceive. "My message at the moment is that you should question everything," she says. "I want people to think about how small we are compared to the universe, and also how big the universe inside ourselves is too. If you question everything, that's the only way you can know who you are."

The colorful creations will be on display from April 18 to 20, and all of her pieces are also available to buy. Montana Shop Tokyo is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission to her exhibition is free of charge. Inquires can be made at 03-6873-3063 (in English and Japanese) and more of her work can be found on her Instagram, @tysapaulina.

(By Peter Masheter, Staff Writer)

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