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Unreal Body ART!
The Creepy Optical Illusions of Hikaru Cho

Via Environmental Graffiti

Written by Yohani Kamarudin

We’re all so used to crazy Photoshopped distortions and manipulations that we might not pay an image like this much attention. Except that this isn’t a photo manipulation – it’s body art! Welcome to the bizarre world of Japanese artist Hikaru Cho, who uses acrylics to paint incredibly weird and lifelike pictures onto her human canvases.

Lots of people doodle when they’re bored, but Tokyo resident Cho, who’s only 19 years old, draws pictures on her own skin. This habit eventually led to a rather strange portfolio of different work – like this face with an extra pair of eyes, which is fascinating but hard to focus on, plus a little unsettling.



Have you ever eaten so much that you had to undo a few buttons on your shirt? And even after doing that, you still felt like your stomach was going to burst? Cho has come up with an ingenious solution to the problem: tummy buttons! The stitching on this man’s belly is so incredibly lifelike that it looks like he’s wearing a shirt made of skin.


Of course, you can’t let it all hang out all the time. So for more formal occasions, here’s the buttoned-up version. It’s amazing how Cho has created such a convincing 3D effect that it looks as though one side of the shirt is overlapping the other.


Although Cho doesn’t use any blood or gore in her creations, this doesn’t mean they don’t have the power to make you feel a bit queasy. This realistic ‘foot lace’ is a perfect example. The cut down the middle of the foot and the eyeholes in the skin are a bit discomforting to think about for long.


We’ve seen this kind of effect before in films, when robot or cyborg characters expose wires or machinery under their skin. But in the movies it’s done with clever special effects. Cho, on the other hand, has used only her paints (and a small plastic prop) to create the same illusion. Don’t you just feel like reaching in to pop out the batteries inside?


This handy solution for constantly missing television remotes might be a little extreme; for one, how would you fight over it? Still, the detail is incredible, and we love the tiny borders around the control buttons – which we almost want to reach out and push.


This arm zip appears so authentic that we can almost feel the texture of those little metal teeth. There’s so much detail in these paintings, making them must be a time-consuming process. We wonder if Cho has ever been tempted to take up tattooing, to make her artworks more permanent. It’s got to be sad to wash them off at the end of the day.


If it’s possible, the zip looks even more genuine when it’s open! Were it real, this would make a safe place for carrying around some spare cash and a handkerchief that’s easily within reach. Meanwhile, on a darker and more serious note, the painting could be interpreted as a comment on suicide.


We can think of at least a dozen people who would benefit from an off switch like this. Nagging parents, arrogant politicians, noisy kids… just think of the possibilities! Unfortunately, there’s no such thing in real life. It just goes to show: body art doesn’t have to cover a lot of skin to make an impression.


This one’s for those times when you’re feeling a bit drained and just want to plug yourself in to recharge! A smart use of shadow makes it look as if the plug and cord are snaking up the model’s back, just inches away from an implanted socket. As you can see, Cho’s paintings often incorporate elements of humor and, perhaps, social commentary.


The illusion of depth in this painting is astonishing; you can even see the tops of the back molars and the tiny creases in the lips. Here, the artist is really letting her hands do the talking!


In this picture, a figure seems to emerge from the model’s back, complete with a handy spanner. At least, unlike the chest-popping creatures from the Alien movies, he seems friendly and unintimidating. He’s just a regular guy, hiding inside a girl, next to her spine, with a spanner… Nothing weird about that at all.


The eye on this hand looks so lifelike that we almost expect it to blink! And the realistic effect is emphasized by the reflections in the eye and each intricate, individually painted eyelash. The eye makeup is also a nice touch. Just because your anatomy’s a little mixed-up, doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty!


Sometimes one layer of skin just isn’t enough, as this double-zipped back illustrates. It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of paint, a lot of talent, and a great deal of creativity. And with her knack for convincing skin art, we bet Cho is in high demand around Halloween!

Right now, Cho is just at the start of her career, and we can’t wait to see what she’s going to come up with in the future. In the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed these wonderfully quirky images of her body art as much as we have.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MG

    August 7, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Awesome work!

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