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The Intricate Lives of Rainfish

Words:

Edd Norval
March 18, 2022

Rain Szeto is one of the few artists you’ll find on Instagram with a truly recognisable style. With the rise and rise of the platform as a digital portfolio, there has been a considerable homogenisation in what art takes up our timelines. Her work is incredibly detailed, instantly recognisable, immersive and of the nature that’s capable of stopping us in our tracks.

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Every single piece opens up like a pandora's box. Initially there’s the image as it is, a whole. We can quite clearly see the scene, like something straight out of a futuristic Japanese manga or anime. Instantly you’re transported from looking at your phone into one of Szeto’s worlds, complete with such intricacy and detail that you’re likely to be there for quite some time.


Evocative of the Where’s Wally gift-that-keeps-giving drawings from youth, every corner becomes rife with material for exploration, so much so that, with thumbs pulling apart to zoom into every nook and cranny, the whole dissolves into a multiplicity of minutiae, where the true wonder is unlocked by spending enough time appreciating the immensity of the detail on show.


Combining ink and paint, eschewing the digital for the analogue, Szeto’s art is even more impressive considering the size. These aren’t large paintings, but pieces barely larger than a trading card. By picking everyday scenes, her slice of life works are filled with detailed cultural clutter, bringing in a very urban sensation of crowdedness - as if space is at a premium. The 'background', in some sense, becomes the foreground, each display weaving in popular cultural reference from cuisine to music.

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There’s something naive, innocent and inviting about her works, yet the sci-fi elements imbue them with a taste of slight technological dystopia, the future firmly taking over the lives of her protagonists as they go about their day-to-day doings.


Set in bustling city life, most of the drawings arouse ideas of Asian urban areas, predominantly Tokyo, given the integration of old ways of life - shopkeeping and markets - with accessible and friendly modernity. Whether it be a bored shopkeeper, somebody enjoying a quiet cup in their kitchen or leisurely thumbing through a record store’s collection, Szeto invites us in with her characters.


Popularised by the growing ‘lo-fi’ playlist scene on YouTube, this personal insight type of art will be more recognisable now than ever before. By bringing the viewer into the lives of her protagonists, Szeto’s works have the ability to provoke within her audience a very particular set of feelings. This is art very contemporary in its content, yet timeless in theme and execution. Art that exists on Instagram, but would be just as at home on our televisions or bookshelves.

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