Japanese artist, Masayoshi Matsumoto’s breathtaking balloon art is fast becoming the talk of the town.
How many of you remember that scene from The Mask, when Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) puts on a show of various balloon animals and inanimate objects? I spent quite a bit of my childhood trying to create something from leftover birthday balloons, and even from those that I collected when I visited amusement parks. The result was always painful to my eardrums, to say the least. Not to mention, I probably gave my grandparents a couple of minor heart attacks.
But for Masayoshi Matsumoto, balloon art has turned out to be a unique medium to communicate and connect with the world. Matsumoto, through his balloon art, has garnered numerous accolades and a huge fan following across the globe.
Balloon art or balloon modeling is the reshaping of balloons, specifically designed for this purpose, into a different shape, animals mostly. Balloon benders or artists, as they are often called, are big hits typically at birthday parties, fairs, and various events.
Typically there are two techniques involved in balloon modeling, Single Balloon Modeling and Multiple Balloon Modeling. The first technique is restrictive, in the sense it uses just one balloon for a model. The second technique, as the name suggests, allows for the use of more than one balloon. Both techniques pose unique challenges to the artist.
Considering how tricky the art can get, many artists also incorporate other methods into their art, such as weaving and stuffing. Typically, the balloons are inflated by artists themselves, or by various kinds of pumps. Helium filled balloon art is not very common, as most artists do not create designs that float.
Helium restricts the twisting of balloons and more often than not makes the balloons too heavy to lug around. Nitrogen or compressed gas is usually what goes into the balloons in this type of art.
While the origin of this art form is unknown, the earliest balloon artist was Herman Bonnert from Pennsylvania, who in 1939 regaled the audience at a magician’s fare with some of his balloon art creations.
Inspired by the works of contemporary artist Riusuke Fukahori, renowned for his resin-based studies of Japanese goldfish, 28 year old Masayoshi Matsumoto decided to revive the balloon art form. But, he wanted to do so with a twist. He uses balloons of varied sizes to come up with ingenious and intricately detailed plants, human figures, and animals like baboons, lizards, isopods, and even insects!
But his art has balloons only. Matsumoto does not use any kind of adhesive, stickers, or even markers to supplement any of his creations. Even tiny details like eyes, nose, etc, are made from balloons. They are all 100% balloon only creations! And this unique skill of his makes his art even more unbelievable. Some of Matsumoto’s best creations are his neon balloon designs. They’re as unique and creative as they are quirky.
One look at them and you are left wondering if they’re made of something other than just plain old inflatable rubber. And that is quite literally what he is after. The fact that it took him nearly four years to learn and master the creation of perfect and almost life-like animals in balloon form is quite apparent.
However, the painstaking process comes with its own set of challenges. ‘Reproducing particular characteristics of the creatures is the most difficult,’ says Matsumoto. ‘Out of all my creations the Iguana was the most challenging,’ he goes on to say.
So how does a chemical engineer by profession become a balloon artist? ‘I have liked creatures since I was small. This emotion motivated me to make life-like balloon animals & insects,’ says Matsumoto, whose ballooning presence on social media has helped him showcase this lost art to the world. He photographs his creations himself and then posts them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
But what happens after? The answer is going to pop your heart, because that is exactly what Matsumoto does. He pops the piece it usually takes him nearly two hours to create. Why, you ask – ‘because there is no space in my house to display my creations,’ says Matsumoto.
However, knowing the artist and knowing that the popping of the balloon is a mere tiny interlude, one only has to merely wait a short while before he comes up with something fantastic again.
Text By Priyanka Menon
Photographs Courtesy Masayoshi Matsumoto