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The exhibition "Psycho Cubism", curated by THE FRIDGE TOKYO, will be held from September 3rd. At the studio of Aki Tsukamoto, who moved back from New York last year, we talked to him about this art show.

If I broke out of my own format, I could express myself in a new way.

——Why did you become an artist?

To tell the truth, I didn't have a special love for painting from a young age, and I didn't start studying it for real until I was in high school. At that time, my father was a very hard-working company man, and seeing him made me think that I couldn't be a salaryman because I was no good at socializing. I thought it would be nice to work with my own skills. At first, I was interested in being a designer, but ultimately, I wanted to express myself more freely to help deal with my depression. That’s how it all began.

——Why did you choose to express yourself through paintings?

I actually like music, but since my brother was already doing it, I didn't want to do the same thing. I thought about what I could do in my own way and decided on drawing. You only need a pencil to start drawing, right? The simplicity and infinite possibilities made it irresistible.

—— Were you ever worried about being able to make a living from your art?

I wasn’t too worried (laughs). I’ve never been too interested in making a lot of money, I just wanted to do what makes me happy. However, I was young at the time, so I didn't really know what I would do if the works didn’t sell, so I just moved to the US.

—— What was the event that led you to go to the United States?

After graduating from high school, I took a gap year, and then was able to go to art school and graduate school. But after graduate school, I was merely floating around. Then I met a friend who went to New York, and for some reason, I wanted to go there too (laughs).

——What attracted you to New York?

The scale of the art market in New York is completely different from that of Japan. The local contemporary art that comes to Japan is only a small part of the market; there are so many works that can only be seen in New York. In Japan, you can't see the works of famous artists at all, but in New York, the works come to you from all over. It's a place where you can learn just by being there. So, I talked to my friend about it, and he let me sneak in as an assistant to a Japanese artist he was working with. I trained there for four years. 

—— How does it feel coming back to Japan after such a long time?

When I'm in America, I miss Japan, but when I come back to Japan, I find that I like living in America better. In the end, it's all about searching for what you don't have, so I guess it's the same no matter where you go. Japan is by far the easiest place to live for me; it is safe, and communication is much easier and smoother. However, the atmosphere of the city is more open-minded in the U.S., while in Tokyo, people keep to themselves and are a bit rigid.

——The title for this series is "Psycho Cubism". How did you start to develop your style of Cubism painting?

When I showed it to a friend, he said, "wow, this is really interesting!” At the time, my sketches weren't as stylized as they are now. But as I continued to paint these rough sketches, the number of things I could draw from them increased, and they became what they are today.

—— What goes through your mind when you are creating something?

That’s a hard question. It is often said that production is about destruction and creation. So, I always try to break down what I have created, and I do so purposefully. I think this gives me an opportunity to change my style or do something completely different.

——I heard that this time you have sketches that are not painted, which is a first for you.

I thought it would be interesting to try painting with pastels on paper, even though I normally paint with oils. At first, I wasn't keen on it, but Picasso had done something like that, so I gave it a try. It didn't work out, and I kept on trying even though I thought it wasn't quite right. However, as I kept trying over and over again, I began to understand how to do the correct hand movements. When I realized that if I broke out of my own format, I could express myself in a new way, it became quite fun; that’s when I decided to put it on display.

—— Now that you have an exhibit at DAYZ in the middle of Shibuya, does it stir up any special feelings in you?

I went to art school and became an artist, so I think I have taken the proper route. However, I have some doubts about the academic side of things and the way museums should be. I want to show my work in a very casual setting, where people can come in and see the art and the works, just like they would come in to buy clothes or sneakers. I've always wanted to do that kind of exhibition, so DAYZ in Shibuya is an ideal place for me. Of course, the academic world is great, but I feel that this is the space I've been looking for as an alternative place that is outside of the normal framework.

Interview & Text : Yu Yamaki
Photo : Yu Inohara