Two friends with no other ambition than to make “relaxed pop” to have fun and entertain people. The Besmaya formula seems simple, but behind it is a lot of talent and many hours spent together.
The success of Cosmic Girl
She spent her childhood watching Japanese animation and faced her childhood dream: becoming an artist. The first shaped her work, clearly influenced by Japanese culture, and the second came true, until becoming a leading artist in places like Japan or Hong Kong. Today, Laura Mas, better known as Okokume, breathes fresh air into contemporary art with the iconic character featured in her paintings, Cosmic Girl.
Painter Laura Mas (Mataró, 1985) confesses that she grew up watching series by Akira Toriyama, like Dragon Ball and Dr Slump, as well as Japanese films. This planted in her creative imagination the seeds of what her art would become, deeply influenced by Japanese culture. Her first characters, which appeared in the Ikimono series, represented Japanese women who already appeared recurringly in Ukiyo-e [an engraving genre typical of Japan]; and her most recent creations, featuring her alter ego, Cosmic Girl, manifest obvious manga and anime influences. “When I was little, I was so amazed by the diversity of characters that I always tried to draw them. No matter the style,” she says.
Cosmic Girl, a galactic being with a girl’s appearance appeared on Earth (and the world of art) in 2017 to convey positive messages. First, Laura had adopted an artistic name that was phonetically closer to Japanese than to Spanish (Okokume) and, after that, the stars aligned to make her talent a success in places like Japan and Hong Kong. Today, Cosmic Girl captures the attention of art galleries and is a sought-after piece at auctions, but she’s also successful outside of this circuit: she was the protagonist of the merchandising of a pop-up art café in the neighbourhood of Harajuku in Tokyo and has been the image of one of the coolest coffee shops in Hong Kong, Hypebeans. In Spain, Okokume's art is less well known, something she admits allows her to work under less pressure, but at the end of 2022 the L21 art gallery in Barcelona exhibited her latest work: Fronteras.
Is Cosmic Girl the alter ego of Okokume or Laura Mas?
I’d say that she shares an alter ego with both.
What does Cosmic Girl represent and how did she come about?
She’s a reflection of the feelings that move my heart. She came to me at a time in my life when I needed a change, a new way of expressing myself artistically. I needed to represent that being that many of us often look for to save us, help us, and bring certain meaning to life and the world.
Turquoise skin and pink hair define Cosmic Girl. Do they mean anything, or do they simply follow a manga/anime aesthetic?
At the beginning, her hair was whiter and then gradually took on pinker tones. It was my way of defining my own style so that I could easily be recognised with a couple of colours, as a signature. Later I became aware of how much Akira anime by Katsuhiro Ōtomo influenced this. Furthermore, with that soft aesthetic and peaceful tone I try to make my message reach all audiences.
“I needed to represent that being that many of us often look for to save us, help us, and bring certain meaning to life and the world”
What is the latest exhibition featuring Cosmic Girl, Fronteras, about?
The audience encounters a personal reflection on the migration crisis and the difficulty migrants face on their path towards a better life. My intention is to embrace diversity, highlight what brings us together, and reinforce universal values like goodness and empathy. In the end, art connects us to something bigger than us, with the humanity we all share and that can lead to something better.
Is Cosmic Girl able to make us think about how we should behave as a society regarding migratory movements?
I don’t know if she is capable, but the intention is there because we need to take on attitudes of respect and tolerance in the face of border issues. It is essential that we uphold human rights and, above all, develop the foundations for a dignified life where basic needs are covered.
Your talent has captured the attention of people far away from Spain. Did you ever design your aesthetic with the Japanese in mind?
The truth is not really.
In fact, the gallery that represents you, JPS Art Gallery, is in Hong Kong. Are you disappointed that your talent is better recognised there?
No, in fact, I handle it well because I still live in Barcelona. My work receives recognition in those places, but here, for now, I still live anonymously and this allows me to create freely, without pressure from the media.
Don’t you have a good relationship with success?
I’ve never enjoyed being the centre of attention. In fact, I feel some anxiety before all my openings, although I understand that it’s part of my job. And obviously I really appreciate and am grateful for the people that come to my openings.
“My intention is to embrace diversity, highlight what brings us together, and reinforce universal values like goodness and”
What do you want to happen in Spain with your work and your message?
I’d like to collaborate with NGOs, just like I’ve done with some institutions in Hong Kong, like Make a Wish, to whom I donate the sale of some of my limited edition works.
You’ve always said that you fought to achieve what resonated with you: being an artist. Is Laura Mas a Cosmic Girl and determination her superpower?
Getting here hasn’t been easy. Suffering, loneliness, and uncertainty have been some of the feelings that have been with me on this great adventure. It’s true that the reward has been exponential and I’m really proud of everything that I’ve achieved, but undoubtedly, every effort requires sacrifice.