While wandering through DesignerCon this year, I happened upon some strange figures that caught my attention. Immediately captivated by their surreal forms and Alice in Wonderland-esque appearance, it was only when I looked at the associated header tag that I realized I knew the artist and his work. Titled Kubita and Kaba, these were the newest additions to the Kinokeshi series by the Japanese artist Shimomoku.

A Brief History of Shimomoku

Now, as I understand it, Shimomoku started out fabricating cosplay costumes in the mid-2000s. But using a lot of the same techniques, he began exploring sculpting his own figures around the same time, most notably his massive series of handmade characters that he called Kinokeshi.

While these pieces were roughly made, they already exhibited the artist’s more surreal leanings and his emphasis on facial expressions. They truly can be viewed as a template for his later vinyl cast direction, to the point that one of those early figures — Rampu — would be reinterpreted by him in 2013 as his first vinyl production design.
And this rendition of Rampu caught collector’s attention, not only because of its slick sculpt but also because a hidden magnet system allowed for gas mask and skull mask accessories to fit over the form’s wonderful face. In fact, near the end of 2013, a parasite mask would be added to the options.
This piece re-launched Shimomoku’s Kinokeshi series, which was furthered in 2014 with the contorted Makori creation and the four-legged Beta design. But then his output quieted to a seeming standstill. Perhaps this was due to his commitments at Jungle Corporation‘s Mutsurin Studios, where his innovative approaches to creating vinyl cast forms had garnered him a job. But whatever the reason, it wouldn’t be until March 20th of 2017 that we’d get a new Shimomoku design, when this set of Kubita and Kaba debuted at the 6th Doki Doki Osaka Sofubi Banpaku event.

My Impressions of the Kinokeshi Series: Kubita & Kaba pieces

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the versions we will be discussing were from the 2017 DesignerCon in Los Angeles. Decorated in what he called the Hinoki edition, their coloration was modeled after the vibrant Japanese cypress trees of the same name. And while I thought this appearance was achieved by casting the pieces in a swirling mixture of colored vinyls, closer examination indicates that these were most likely hand-painted this way, as the open bottom of this piece reveals the vinyl to be pitch black.
But the real attraction, for me, isn’t this beautiful decoration but rather the gorgeous intricacy of the sculpts. There’s a very natural, playful fluidity to this form, accentuated by the way it almost appears to be hovering on the wavy hemline of its dress. And contrasting the above-pictured piece’s placid face, the other’s is one of wide-eyed surprise.
Attired in a sculpted patchwork that lends a wonderful tactile element, this six-legged creature has delicately simple, mitten-like hands and a neckline adornment that brilliantly recalls the bared teeth in the beast’s second, elongated mouth. And bringing a wow factor to the backside, these rows of teeth traverse the back of the head, ending in a stunning, lolling tongue.

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