‘Be mirror, and see others without prejudice,’ behind Rinna ♥︎ Neko Rinna’s NFT art world


Rinna ♥︎ Neko Rinna

Rinna ♥︎ Neko Rinna, also known as Rinna the Cat, started working her first NFTs in 2021 with a passion for illustration. A Thai-born designer and illustrator, she has been an active member of artists’ communities. 

After graduating from universities in Thailand and the United Kingdom, Rinna moved to Japan. There, she became part of an artists’ community, where she joined an NFT study group and learnt a new technology that would take her to the biggest opportunity in her life so far.

Rinna’s work was selected for the Diversity of NFTs showcase at NFT.NYC 2022, held in New York from June 20.  She recently talked to Metaverse Style and shared her quest for art, the ideas behind her work Mirror ♥︎ Mirror (Mirror heart Mirror) which was being displayed. 

■ A person’s image in the mirror is a human being just like anyone

-Can you tell us how you came to participate in The NFT.NYC Diversity of NFTs showcase and what you feel about your work?

When I applied to NFT.NYC, I sent them the URL of the foundation, where my work is on public display, and appealed to them by telling them about my efforts with my colleagues in the ArtGumi ♥︎ Art Group, with whom I am currently engaged in art activities. After receiving such recognition for my work and activities, NFT.NYC subsequently sent me an email saying, “Congratulations! You have passed the selection process.”

The name of the work I submitted to NFT.NYC is “Mirror ♥︎ Mirror.” I echoed the theme of this year’s competition, Diversity, by depicting the reflection of a person in a mirror. The core message of the work is that if we can see ourselves in others and others in us, just as we see ourselves in the mirror, we can be kinder to each other and understand each other.

Even though we may look different, the flesh and bones that make up our bodies are the same. Therefore, if we could look at others without prejudice, just as we look at ourselves, we would be able to truly understand each other. I thought that this kind of perspective is important for diversity.

I also create positive-looking and cute girls based on the concept of “pop + optimistic + kawaii.” I aim to express the boundaries between young girls and ladies, and express various aspects seen from a positive perspective in a girl’s world.

Mirror ♥︎ Mirror was shown at NFT.NYC 2022 in New York.

-You earlier mentioned that you were making new works while nursing your dog. I imagined that you were working during a very difficult time.

Yes, it was. When I was working on Mirror ♥︎ Mirror, my dog Tom became very ill and needed a 24-hour intravenous drip. I worked on the artwork in the intervals when Tom was sleeping. Tom passed away just as I sent the completed work to NFT.NYC. In many ways, this work is for me a manifestation of “never giving up.”

Although I am unable to attend the NFT.NYC event myself, I would be delighted if anyone who has the opportunity to see my work could take a photo or video of it. I hope that people who happen to see my work will realise that people all over the world are living as fellow human beings.

■ Started drawing at the age of two and came across NFTs in 2021

-I would like to ask you about your background, Rinna, first of all, why did you want to become an illustrator?

I started drawing pictures when I was two years old. My father gave me three crayons at the time, saying I could draw on the walls of our house. “But only in the living room. No other rooms”, but I drew in all the rooms. My mother got very angry with me (laughs)!

But thanks to that, I learnt that art means free expression. My father told me: “Don’t use an eraser when you draw. If you make a mistake, don’t erase it, but think for yourself what to do with the line. It is like improvisation.” In fact, if I made a mistake, I would rearrange it and say, ‘Well, let’s make this one a cat’.

After graduating from university in Thailand, I continued my study at a design university in the UK for a year. It was interesting, and there were many different people there besides artists, including computer scientists, and I was sometimes in charge of music for projects. I enjoyed doing something outside my field because it helped me learn about other people’s ways of thinking and helped me understand teamwork better. This experience also made me want to learn to understand the various ways of thinking of many people.

-When did you move your base to Japan?

It was in 2016. After my graduation, I exhibited my illustrations, participated in art fairs and won awards, and as I made more acquaintances in Japan and received more offers from Japan, I decided to move my base there. My work seemed to fit the Japanese scene.

-Can you tell us how you started NFTs?

I was part of a community called Chignitta, run by Taniguchi Sumihiro, who helped me with my work in Japan, and there was a NFT study group there, where Fracton Ventures’ Yudai Suzuki taught me about NFTs.

I thought, “I want to try it,” but at that time in July 2021, there were still very few people doing NFTs, so I started alone. At first I minted at OpenSea, but my work was bought by my friend DUO, who I connected with on Chignitta.

Later, I wanted to expand my scope and joined the NFT community in Thailand. I was introduced to the foundation and decided to work there. Even now, the foundation is still where most of my NFT activities take place.

-Did you form an art group after you started NFTs?

Yes, since I started doing NFTs I have had some great encounters and opportunities. At that time, I thought that there could be artists more amazing than me, and if they did NFTs, their works would be wonderful. Also, it would be more fun to do it as a community than alone, so I started the Art Gumi.

There were not many people doing NFTs at the time, so I started the group with DUO, who I mentioned earlier, and my sister, and we started a small group by inviting international artists we met and friends who had been to the same art fairs.

The art group is a community of international artists, curators, galleries and art lovers. It is not only important for physical artists to start doing NFTs, but also for digital artists to exhibit their work in a physical space. It can be said that the group acts as a bridge between physical and digital art.

The group has about 50 active members. They all support each other in what they can do, and produce great results.

There are four artists from the group selected for NFT.NYC. Two of us will be in Times Square, myself and DRAWMAMA, while Ykha Amelz and Rensi Ardinta will be in the NFT ASIA gallery, and from June 17 to 25. We will be in a special exhibition at the Metasequoia Art Fair 2022. This will be the first time our group will be exhibiting.

NFT.NYC is the biggest opportunity of my life, NFTs have helped me to make my international debut, and I believe that connecting with the world through NFTs has created this great opportunity.

Rinna ♥︎ Neko Rinna

■ NFTs can potentially dismantle the “pyramid-like big mass” in power structure

-Is there anything you are focusing on at the moment or anything new you would like to try?

I want to do NFTs because I want to. I think NFTs can decentralise a lot of things. The world until now has been centralised. There was always a big mass like a pyramid, with people at the top giving orders to people at the bottom. I think it is important to decentralise those power-related things and make everyone equal. I believe this is a new hope.

NFTs connect us to the art world wherever we are. This is really thanks to the power of Web3 technology that I, a small artist born in a developing country, can show my work at NFT.NYC. It may be difficult to introduce the new idea of decentralisation made possible by NFTs to a world that is used to being centralised, but I believe that NFTs will become one of the gateways to Web3 and create a new culture where people can connect more freely with the rest of the world.

I’m just an artist and I don’t have any influence on society yet, but I’m trying to decentralise within the small community of the art group. Everyone is trying to do equal and fun things together, or influence and support each other. This is what I want to do now.

I feel that NFTs have the power to make these things possible. I think it can become a new social structure. As an artist, I hope that the art of NFTs will be a spark of hope for a new era and that people will understand and gradually accept the possibilities of this new technology.

-How do you think art will be made and enjoyed in the future?

There will be no countries. There will be no distinction between “this is a British NFT”, “this is a Thai NFT”, etc. NFTs are in the same one world. You put your work out there for people to see, and then everyone decides whether they like it or not. It is not up to someone else to decide, but to everyone. That’s a picture I have in mind.

I think the most important thing, in the old times or days to come, is the quality of the work. And although NFTs may seem like a financial product today, there are still people working hard to create artwork. The members of the art circle are all very serious. If they become stronger and stronger and are introduced to NFTs, others will know that there are people who are serious about art.

■ Artwork is life itself, that’s why I will keep going

-Where does your inspiration for your artwork come from?

When it comes to art, I start working with my hands without thinking. If I start drawing and have trouble coming up with ideas, I take a bath or go for a walk in the middle of the day. I hope that ideas will come to me when I relax. When I talk to people, sometimes they ask me questions that I haven’t expected. This is also a good starting point.

If I think about a concept all the time and keep it in my head without drawing it, sometimes an image will come to me one day. I don’t do a lot of drafting. If I draft it, it doesn’t turn out as I imagined, so I tend to draw it all at once after I have a solid image.

Art is not a work of art, it is a life. It is a way of life itself. Artists think about their artwork not only when they are awake but also when they are sleeping. I believe that art is life, so creating artwork is living a life.

(The article is originally written in Japanese by Hidenobu Mori. The English translation is compiled and edited by Kit Lai.)