To begin, could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Japan till I was 18. My family came to the States in the late 80s because of my father's job. So I've been exposed to different sets of values, beliefs and norms from two different countries. This has been very helpful in constructing my world view from my own perspective as well as steering my path into my studio practice in art.
Describe your journey to becoming, (or identifying as) an artist. Has it been easy? Natural? What has been difficult?
When I went to college my initial interest was in psychology. I think I wanted to find out who we are as a species after learning that prevalent angles in one culture are not necessarily valid in others. Then I took some elective courses in art and one of the art teachers, Karl Jacobson, showed me how visual language can let us speak to each other despite our cultural boundaries. This really shocked me and moved me. It was profound and surprising. I eventually changed my major and started to spend all my time in making art. Looking back it was perhaps natural in a way since as a child I was always making things and drawing. But I really didn't grow up with art and becoming an artist was not something I would do. I think being displaced and being forced to reexamine my identity somehow freed me in that regard.
How would you describe your work to someone?
I describe materials, physical attributes and so on a little, and I usually end up saying that you have to see it. I like an element of the unknown to play a good part in the work so it is difficult to verbalize it.
What is important for viewers to note when viewing your work?
I would like them to know that all viewers are invited to appreciate my work. I understand that we don’t share the same background and we have different ways of perceiving things. And I would like to know what they think of them and how they feel about them.
What is your process like? How important is process in understanding your work?
The core process seems to be brainstorming through drawing. Basic ideas emerge from it. Some of them become sculptures and others become prints. Paintings follow a different process. I usually go right in without preconceived ideas. I rely on visual elements appearing on the surface to guide the overall dynamics. It can be a very thrilling process with surprises and dramas, and it can also be very meditative and liberating. And all my work, including sculptures and prints, involve this process of examining dynamics within the work—I want all elements to play necessary rolls to compose the profound wholeness.
I like hearing about artists’ process, but other than that, I don’t know if knowing the process would facilitate the understanding... Also, the process is hardly formulated...it’s very bumpy and often tortuously long and frustrating. But sometimes it goes very smooth. Come to think of it, there might be some keys in understanding the particular work in its particular process...
But basically making process to me is about observing and letting the elements speak as they form relationships among themselves. So any preconceived formula, rule and so on can be very much hazardous, as much as instructive, as they can get in the way of new discoveries.
I'm interested to know how you arrived at your choice of process, materials, and 'style?' How did this develop?
Those things are developed by the path of my studio practice. One thing leads to another, I digest the process, and it gives birth to more paths and options, and after awhile I have ended up with a trajectory with certain materials, process and “style”. It all happens in an intermingling dynamic of various elements though. It’s hard to pin point a cause and the effect when I’m in the middle of processing multiple phenomenons on multiple dimensions. A lot of things happen intuitively. I do stop and contemplate here and there, but after all it seems that those things are determined by the works themselves.
What does your work aim to say?
Each piece is different so I can’t generalize too much, but I’m very much fascinated by the mode of communication through arts. I think a successful art work allows us to convey a genuine experience without truncating details when it takes us over and flourishes in our hearts. You can live a moment with its infinite connection to ourselves and our environment. And sometimes you can share the experience with others too. I think this is particularly meaningful in a highly authoritarian society, like ours, that systematically and structurally truncates our connections to self, others, matters and environment by limiting them to quantifiable commodities. It is extraordinary that such a trajectory has deprived us of our ability to sense the risks of environmental destruction, nuclear threat and so on. But art can somehow give us a common ground to stand on. I don’t claim this to solve anything, give us a revelation of our time or anything like that, but it is still a profound fact that we have this gift of our life that defies certain obstacles among us for a moment.
Can you highlight some of your influences and discuss how they have impacted your work?
I’m sure I get influenced by other artists’ paths here and there, but overwhelmingly, it is my own path in my studio that affects the work the most. I usually have a few pieces in progress so they sort of feed each other in terms of directions, methods and so on. Also, making prints might do something to sculpture making, while sculptures might affect the paintings and so on. It’s all fluid, organic and dialectic.
Where do you find inspiration?
Again, things that happen in my studio get me going. It’s exciting to see mere shapes, lines, tones and so on suddenly find their voices and start making dynamics, flows, visual narratives and presences. When I get stuck I listen to music. I also have an electric guitar for releasing some tension and having fun. I also read and write. Actually, making art can be pretty tough, I get stuck quite often.
In your experience, what is the best thing about being an artist? What is the hardest thing about being an artist?
There are moments when you forget about everything and you just appreciate the time you spend making the work. And there are even more special moments when you literally melt with the experience of having your work culminate into a finished work. You lose sense of time and space and be one with the experience. Such times are so special that I feel just happy doing what I do in my studio.
The tough part is that I am aware of what art can be and I struggle with what I can do with art as I look at things outside of my studio with my artist’s eyes. I connect dots and I try to make sense out of events, facts and contexts just as I do in my studio with visual elements. I see that our era is not a time of “democracy”, “freedom”, “humanity” and so on. Awful things are done in the name of those things.
If you were not an artist, what would you be?
I really can’t imagine...
What piece of advice would you give to a young artist?
The World is huge. Much bigger than the tiny cage old people call “country”, “society”, “culture” and so on. We the artists know the infinite universe of true liberation. Tell people stories about freedom, what it is to be humans, try not to build cages for the people.