Chaotic utopias

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The beautiful and the grotesque, the everyday and the surreal – chaotic, abstract utopias. Glass last covered the work of remarkable Japanese artist, Yutaka Inagawa, in 2009 just as the first major retrospective exhibition of his work was unveiled in Seoul. Three years on, Glass brings you an exclusive preview of some of his newest works and talks to him about how his style has progressed.

On the development of his style:
Actually, when I began painting in Japan, my style was a kind of spontaneous  way of painting, without any plan. Back then I just somehow managed to capture some images. But I needed to expand my images so I started researching everyday objects and, then, I just tried to translate these photographic images into kind of vocabulary, a kind of semi abstract style.There was a gap between my creation and the object – a bridge between the creation and reality, which is why I started using photomontaging.

My basic concept of painting looks at grotesque images and contemporary society. I think I like to create a space with many types of activities, boundaries, transformations of identities. I think in my paintings, there’s a kind of weird existence, something grotesque, the colours and textures. I think I try to create something chaotic, utopian.

On beginning to incorporate human figures and faces for the first time into his new work:
It was when I realised that I could use human figures – faces without being too … that I might be able to keep my painting semi-abstract. It was right after I came back to Japan in 2009. In my previous paintings, you can see maybe things from everyday life, everyday objects, many fragments of things combined. I’m now making similar images but I just wanted to develop my work further.

I began to think of using narratives relating to figures because it just widens my possibilities so that’s when I started using figures. Actually using figures is one of the biggest changes and I want to develop it more. I’m really enjoying working with human facial expression and using friends’ and family members’ photos. I’m really enjoying that, playing with the photos and faces for now.

On being inspired by place and cultural confusion:
The university where I’m working at the moment is in the countryside, surrounded by mountains. It’s very beautiful, it’s kind of a seaside town. It doesn’t really matter though where I am when I’m working if I have studio space and time to paint. I was born in Tokyo and I grew up there so obviously Tokyo is one of the biggest sources of inspiration for my creation and also I lived in London for nine years …

Before I went to London and after I came back to Japan, I experienced some kind of strange shift of sense of reality. In Japan you can always find many photos and images of western culture and western faces, then when I went to London my daily surroundings were these things … and when I came back to Japan, I was surrounded by the situation again.

The images of Hollywood films, it felt so distant but after I spent nine years in London, then I could feel more attached to some of English culture. It made me want to use the images from the internet. I usually use photos that I take by myself but right now, the things I see on the internet, it’s all part of my reality. I can see through a computer screen, that’s a part of the reality.

On painting in the quiet:
I listen to radio stations, English radio stations – Radio 4 or London’s Biggest Conversation. If I listen to Japanese radio stations, it kind of distracts my concentration but English it’s kind of nice. Music is fine too. I like to listen to music but sometimes it becomes too much. But I don’t like to paint in the quiet.

On deciding to be an artist:
When I was 18, I needed to decide on a direction – either going to university or going to art school. I didn’t want to go to university without a purpose. Most Japanese students go to university without a purpose, just to go for four years, have fun, graduate then get a job but that was kind of a nightmare for me so I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t the type of child who painted all the time. It’s maybe quite strange but somehow becoming a painter was really … I just decided to go to art school and I told my parents I wanted to be a painter, It was a problematic transition for my parents, they were quite surprised.

On what the future holds:
For the future, I would like to carry on exploring the collage-esque usage of oil paints with twisted narratives and its process also I am interested in a large scale of installation work with mural paintings together with an assemblage of paintings and drawings.

I will be taking part of in group show titled ‘Expression’ at Komyoji-Kaikan in Onomichi, Hiroshima next month.
The exhibition has been timed to coincide with an art event ‘OPEN STUDIO ON AIR’, which is organized by AIR ONOMICHI (Artists in Residence Onomichi.)

It’s a very interesting area and movement in Onomichi. The area is old with many abandoned houses, which are now being renovated and re-used as a studio spaces for artists and designers, in a way, a bit like East London.  A couple of interesting installation works by former residence artists from Europe are also going to be shown at the event.

by Tara Wheeler


Zandari Gallery



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