Anyone you look up to?
Hmm… Atsuko Koyanagi, my gallerist. Even though we don’t discuss art in depth, she definitely guides me, takes care of me. Her and my manager, Chie Fukasawa. I owe them a lot.
What are you interested in besides art?
Umm… What would that be… Hmm.
Anything at all?
Oh! I like clothes, I designed this t-shirt. But to think of it… I only have my art. I never did homework at school and now, when work gets really tough, I often think I’m paying for my unfinished homework.
Is there anyone you can relate to?
I used to share a studio with my friends and quickly realized that everyone was only interested in themselves. Everything comes down to a personal experience. I was a kid when the bubble bursted, CEO’s hanging themselves in the news… To be “number one” quickly became irrelevant. It made me think I’d rather be on my own, not a part of the team. Do what I want.
Does present-day influence you?
I guess, but I’m more into things before the Heisei. Crazy stuff from the 80′s, like Yamamoto Kansai. I don’t know why… I’m not interested in what money can buy, but the crazy things you can create in your head. I think the Japanese have a natural talent for making something brilliant out of nothing. My family isn’t rich, but with a piece of paper and my imagination alone I could create anything.
Where do you see yourself in 30 years time?
Hopefully alive. I’m not suicidal, but not physically strong either. Many people tell me that I’ll die young. I’d be happy to draw. Even if I didn’t have arms I’d probably draw with my feet! [Laughs]. I pictured myself naked with an erection in my recent work, “Maybe Tonight”. Most people who see the title imagine something promising, but to me “Maybe tonight… the world will end.” I want to capture this duality within me. I can be happy and sad at the same time. Something bad happens and I feel low, yet a little pleased at the same time. I want to live, but also want to die. It has been always like that for me.
Do you think of the world’s end often?
Only recently, after the earthquake, I felt this world may easily end at any given moment. Not only it made me realize I’m no longer safe, it also made me think how previously unquestioned thoughts and beliefs can be easily changed overnight. So to me, “Maybe Tonight” alludes to the fact that art may not mean much after all.
Still, an erection is quite optimistic, no?
Yeah that’s true! [Laughs] I was a little hesitant at first, but a friend of mine told me to go ahead, because I can only do it now, not in my fifties. [Laughs]
Your favorite hangout in Tokyo?
Umm… here. There is a nice empty space in front of my studio, which I like to look at without worrying about people looking back, even when I work naked. [Laughs] I’m not from Tokyo and sometimes find locals a little scary. I felt the same in New York… Ground Zero made me think how terrifying 9/11 must’ve been, also all these people moving cash in Twin Towers…
What inspires you most?
Sex! Both, as an actual act and a mentally stimulating experience. It lets you touch a person in a different way from, say, a handshake. You have to accept in order to be accepted. I’m not an overly confident person, but feel empowered by sex. It also exercises my five senses. I don’t read, or watch TV much. I mostly get inspired by people, interacting with them.
Are you as imaginative in sex as in your works?
Could be. I was talking with my friends the other day and realized people tend to get very creative during sex. We loose guard when we’re with our partners. I find it very liberating. Sex was not meant for reproduction only. How does it feel like to have a penis in one’s mouth? I want to capture that feeling on paper. It’s also interesting to compare what women have to say about men. Men and women seem to have a different angle on relationships.
What’s your biggest ambition?
To create at least one work that possess enough impact to cause insanity! People are in awe with natural geometric patterns found in nature, like snow flakes. I also want to create something that goes unquestioned, a masterpiece of sorts. Like “The Scream” by Munch. I saw it first when I was in elementary school. No knowledge of art back then, but I understood instantly it was something great. I aim for something that goes beyond intellectual understanding and rational beliefs.
Translated by Chisako Izuhara
“Maybe Tonight” is on display at Gallery Koyanagi through Ocober 3rd.