Brent: Of course the first impression I get with your collage work (we may as well start there) is that it rings Japanese: The color, the quirkiness, and freshness – the level and sense of reserve and adornment. Though that’s too simple. Quirkiness and perhaps freshness has been picked up, more fetishized, by western media, so we’ll leave that for a moment. And as you are not in Japan, and have settled in a different environment, I’m going to leave the Japanese thing aside as well – for the moment. Sensibilities, or where the work comes from probably will flow naturally without the need to make some grand cultural point.
That said, if I didn’t live here, I don’t know if I would have got the collage work that you do, as well as I think I do. Simply said I enjoy and feel it. It’s very much part of this culture’s fabric. Said from someone who is still coming to terms with what that fabric is. In the process, so to speak – never expecting to get there, of course, but open to the process.
I wouldn’t mind starting with ways of looking. And perhaps how you see something that interests you. How you pick that up, give it some attention, notice its qualities, what memory that triggers, its instance, and some of the more intriguing background operatives, how you are thinking when you move that into that position.
Shinsuke: I am interested in encountering activities and accidents that convert or flip over concepts, stereotypes and prejudices. As an artist, I am trying to create artwork that suggests to the audience several different points of view toward things and phenomena around them.
The series of collage work is one of my main practices. They are created by using a great variety of found materials including paper, fabric, plastic, tape, thread, and hair embellished with doodle-like touches of pencil, pen and paint marks. The first step of this process is to encounter materials in my everyday life, to collect and preserve them. Secondly, I re-contextualize the materials as shapes and colors by trimming, cutting them up, tearing, crumpling, adding marks and juxtaposing the elements with other materials on a paper ground.
What I am looking for in my daily life are awkward combinations of objects, placed in unexpected situations either by accident or through somebody’s intention. When I make the collages, I’m always concerned about the weirdness of mixture of the elements as well as the composition. To create these strange situations, I need to collect as diverse materials as I can, especially the papers: I have the local Chinese restaurant’s menu, porn, advertisements, found pictures, kids’ doodles, somebody’s memo, packages, tacky party decorations, fashion magazines, cartoons, newspaper, fancy wrapping paper, receipts, cardboard, envelopes, flyers and various kinds of catalogues.
It may be hard for you to imagine but you are only the second person who mentioned about the ‘Japanese’ taste in my collage works. I tend to avoid making stereotypical Japanese contemporary art such as the cartoon look, cute stuff, or a contemporary subject depicted with traditional technique. The Japanese taste in my work is not really cultural or artistic. It’s a different kind of taste that is considered uncool in general. I recently realized that this derives from landscapes of my hometown, a suburb of Japan.
You would imagine Pachinko neon signs glaring in the middle of rice paddies; brand new bow windows on an old wooden house patched with corrugated tinplates; a shiny red Ferrari parked next to a farm tractor in a barn; weirdly themed ‘love hotels’ clustered together on a side of a mountain; hand-painted anime characters on the wall of a kindergarten; a trace of a landslip covered with concrete; a zebra-patterned two-car-long train running through rice paddies; a line of vending machines shining in the darkness of night; an abandoned old refrigerator half buried in mud by a odorous bad smelling river; curves of electric wires in between massive pylons.
These things don’t look very sophisticated yet has an impact. And that attracts me. Perhaps it’s difficult for an audience who has never lived in Japan to understand this taste. Actually, on the other hand, the first person who mentioned about the specific taste was my local friend who does not have much knowledge about art. He nonchalantly said, ‘Your artworks remind me of our town’ after he saw my collages for the first time. His comment really shocked me because I didn’t even think of it until then.
I feel very excited when I encounter strange phenomena and keep this same excitement when it turns up in work: Although the excitements are very different. The former is like stepping on a mine, which is totally unexpected and shocks, or kills me. The latter is similar to creating a booby trap.
In addition, I am interested in art as a ‘phenomenon’ — that is able to convert the meaning and value of things. As mentioned, the materials I use are mostly discarded from our society, but they acquire currency as you work with them.
Brent: I don’t know how many times I’ve seen visitors standing in front of those glowing vending machines, getting their photo taken. This thing, glowing on the street, a whole set of them, is strange, but at the same time so appealing.
In your collages, where this odd connection between things works, you mention they are part of the everyday.
How different is the everyday that you are presently in to the everyday of your childhood? Is there an equivalent to glowing vending machines, or love hotels on the hill?
The collages are very much ‘telltales’ of a system of a way of life and way of thinking. And as such you are working with these disparate links both at a formal level and also as something that has history. There is the story of the everyday, odd and diverse as it is. And that is primarily local, where you are now. Though there is this totally different history too, that is working and that is embedded in another local time, the one of your hometown as a child.
I like this. It reminds me of you a bit.
The black drape as a tie, and the white the shirt.
And the lock of what, synthetic golden hair: The blue dangle of the ribbon.
I also see a color thing happening that is stereotypically ‘Barbie’, the western doll version – the blond and the blue – a prom even.
And what of formal arrangements: How things perform under their own steam, the different hangs of the materials, the way gravity plays on different material, how the colors of those things perform. This piece is also very structural.
Shinsuke: It took a while to get back to you, Brent. Again nobody has asked me these questions before, and I thought that it would be worth to take time to answer.
The ‘everyday’ of my childhood and the recent one that I am in are obviously different. I am now living and working in New York, have been getting older, and have learned more things. However, I feel I still have the same excitement and interest as I had as a child, growing up as a teenager. In other words, a part of my psychological life is still on the same lineage of my childhood.
Landscape-wise, it is hard to find the equivalent experience here in New York. The nature of things, the half-natural-half-artificial, such as farms and rice paddies, coexist in Japan. (By the way, I use the word ‘nature’ here as a comparison to things created by human beings.) In NY the half-natural-half-artificial works differently. Of course the cultural and populational diversity in New York differs greatly from a small town just outside Tokyo.
The City of New York provides me with a huge resource for the collages. I don’t need to buy much except for glue, tapes, staples, and different papers for ground. As a result of living in New York for more than eight years, most of my materials can be found here, and are free. Luckily the city supports a very diverse and complex interweaving of cultures, as I mentioned before, and this huge reservoir supplies me with an abundance of interesting materials often that can be found coming from all parts the world.
Although I use these materials, that end up here, or are of New York, the way I compose them into a collage has more to do with the aesthetic of ‘the weird landscape of suburban Japan’.
In terms of my artistic inspiration, I would like to add monsters that I saw in animations, cartoons and live-action super hero TV programs as well as odd looking animals and plants such as deep sea creatures, tropical animals and poodle-cut pine trees, dinosaurs and mutants: All most likely derived from my experience of growing up, watching TV, and immersed in the everyday weirdness of landscapes in my hometown.
The elements in my collage, as with the individual as audience, and I, each have very distinct histories, so-called an ‘everyday life’. When these histories intersect through collage, different stories are being created depending on how I compose the elements and how the audience interprets them based on their knowledge, experience, and memory. For example, the work above reminded you of a Barbie doll, a prom, or me, while another person simply thought that it looked like a hammerhead shark constructed with junk. You read the work through the color combination and what each element means to you. On the other hand, the other person just saw it as one shape and didn’t pay much attention to the meanings of the elements and colors.
It’s hard to see what the exact elements are from the jpeg image. Actually, the hair is real extension hair that was used in fashion shows, the black drape is a torn up t-shirt, the blue ribbon came out from a party cracker, and the top part is a cut-up piece of another collage including black paint marks, a picture of some garden and somebody’s memos. For me the hair symbolizes the stereotype of Western beauty or sexiness in the Eastern world, the t-shirt gives an impression of punk rock culture, and the blue ribbon recalls my neighbor’s kid’s birthday party. I try to create an artwork embracing these mixed elements and meanings yet work visually to get them well composed, where all elements are leveled out no matter what they were, or where they are from originally.
I recently realized that the physical, visual and conceptual freeness from gravity is very important to all my works. This invisible freeness is presented as dangling elements (dangling lines in collage) that often come up in my works. These elements are similar to a string attached to a balloon. And in the fact that they hang down visualize the gravity of the earth. However, they also emphasize the lightness of bigger objects that are placed above them simultaneously. In the collages all elements are not touching edges of the paper. That makes the elements appear to exist free in space. Furthermore, each element is alleviated from the gravity of its meaning being mixed with other elements or composed simply as shapes and colors.
Brent: Thanks Shinsuke.