For most of us, having to open Microsoft Excel is something to dread. A misplaced click and a carefully arranged spreadsheet tears itself apart, flinging important information to all corners of the screen. Our fear is natural. Excel is a fickle program capable of ruining entire afternoons in moments—a hellbeast that hides the chaotic essence of its entire being just beneath a facade of orderly grids and mathematical figures.
Let us consider, then, the incredible accomplishments of Tatsuo Horiuchi, a man who conquers our collective unease around Excel by mastering it to such a degree that he can actually use the horrible program to make very nice visual art.
In a brief documentary focused on Horiuchi’s work, Great Big Story finds the 77-year-old creating not just legible, orderly invoices but full-on images reminiscent of nature drawings or paintings. After retiring, Horiuchi was interested in creating art, but didn’t want to spend the money on supplies. Instead, working from his home in Nagano, Japan, he used Excel, which was already installed on his PC, as a new medium.
Horiuchi uses Excel’s line-drawing tool to draw shapes and its color-changing features to complete his work. He somehow manages, despite the obvious limitations of the software, to make impressive depictions of everything from cherry trees and scenic forests to erupting volcanoes and Japanese festivals.
Horiuchi’s portfolio proves that art can be made with even the most limited tools. It also shows, unfortunately, that any of us applying for a job requiring “mastery of Microsoft Excel” have to seriously up our game.