There is no lie in what I am doing,” says yuta okuda. We talked to the painter, who uses miniature painting and India ink, about his work, including his attitude of respecting sincerity above all else.
I get the impression that you do a lot of paintings of living things based on miniature painting techniques.
– All of my work is based on unconscious self-projection and self-interpretation. On an unconscious level, I think of individual creatures, and on a conscious level, I turn them into conceptual works, such as Hannya, Marilyn, or Komainu.
The subject matter I want to depict in my unconscious mind is always flowers and living things, and from there I try to express two conflicting themes such as beauty and ugliness, love and jealousy, life and death in one piece. The motifs are always living things, and I depict the beauty of the natural order based on the concept of “beautiful foodchain”.
Over the past few years, you have been changing your method of expression from a calculated miniature painting using only lines to a line drawing that utilizes the accidental blurring of ink. I think the change in your environment and mind had a big influence on this. Also, I think the reason why you draw fine lines is probably your temperament.
You are a designer by background, what made you become an artist?
-There are many reasons, but I think the first reason is that I wanted to be an artist. Designers and artists are completely different in nature.
As a designer, I was a very creative-minded person who put a lot of effort into patterns. But commercial designers are not expected to have individuality. You have to work on a certain design, in a certain way, on a certain schedule. That was more stressful than I thought it would be. So I think the start was really just that, “I just want to draw the pictures I want to draw.
And so did you start painting right away?
-No, at first I was just drawing at home. It was more of a way to relieve stress. I just drew and drew. When I look back now, the pictures from that time look very dense. I think it’s closer to the impression of desperation or a sense of uncanny. It was really a way to relieve stress, and I felt like I was letting out my negative emotions. I didn’t even think about showing it to anyone. Not at all. It was my own toxin, so to speak (laughs).
Even so, you were able to publish your work, which means you started out as a professional artist, right?
-There were people who recognized my work, my paintings. There were people who said, “I like your work,” even though my negativity was on full display. I was surprised. It was a surprise, and to put it bluntly, it made me feel good. That would never happen with a commercial designer. In fashion, you have to make things up, but in painting, you are naked. I was happy to show that part of myself and have it appreciated. It was during this time that I saw some of my friends who were artists, and I was jealous of their work, and thought, “I want to be one too. So maybe it was jealousy that made me want to become an artist. Still, I knew that if I was going to do it, I would do it professionally, not as a hobby, and I would not do it half-heartedly. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it thoroughly.
You said that your works are self-projected. Did you have a set process from the beginning, like “unconscious → conscious”?
-In the beginning, it was all about just drawing. I would draw for three days and sleep for half a day, just trying to get it out. When I let out all the things that had been piling up, all the things that were coming up, I was finally able to see the concept. That’s “self-projection”.
It’s the opposite of fashion. What I do in art is to discover myself, to show my most honest self. How naked you can be and how you can bring out that part of yourself is important. I want to see how my experiences will be outputted.
But isn’t it hard to input when it’s based on your own experience?
-I ran out in the first three years (laughs). 30 years of my life hit the bottom in three years. (laughs). 30 years of my life hit bottom in 3 years, but I think that’s the top 30 years. I think I can dig deeper. I think I’ve finally come to understand myself over the past three years. I think I’ve finally come to understand myself. I feel like I’m making a second start now.
Recently, in addition to your early miniature paintings, you have been using more ink and other materials in your works. Is this change intentional?
-My work changes because it is still linked to myself. Even if I were asked to paint the exact same picture as before, both materially and spiritually, it would be very difficult. Things change, but what I can say is that there is no lie in what I am doing now. I really don’t have any doubts. As I mentioned earlier, my paintings are all about how naked I can be and how honest I can be with myself. So if you think about it based on that, I think I can assure you that there is no mistake in what I am doing now.
On the other hand, when it comes to production and technique, the first thing I have to work on is the point of large and prolific works. In the past, being able to paint and eat was a blessing in itself, but now, partly because I have set my sights higher, I would like to pay more attention to the number of works I produce in the future. Other than that, for example, I’m always trying to update my materials. I have tried watercolor, copperplate, oil, Japanese painting, clay, and many others. As a result, I decided that ink was the one that best suited my nature.
After three years of creating and presenting your work, you have sorted yourself out and found new goals and challenges, and now you are aiming for the next step. Do you already have a specific goal in mind?
-My work is a self-projection, so I don’t have a clear vision of what the future holds for me. What I can say is that I am not lying to myself. I want to be naked and honest in my work. That’s why I want to make use of my own experiences that come naturally to me.
As I mentioned earlier, on an unconscious level, my paintings are always referring to flowers and living things, their beauty and ugliness, life and death. What I want to see, what I am trying to see, and who I want to depict as a painting are gradually becoming clearer. Now that I’ve finally gotten used to the empty space, I think I have a lot of work ahead of me, taking in different experiences and refining them into paintings. Perhaps the paintings will keep changing. The me of today is different from the me of when I first started painting. So the atmosphere may not be as incisive as it used to be. But I don’t think it’s bad that there are parts that change. Rather, I would like to think about how I can create my own unique paintings while understanding and incorporating the changes in my environment and myself. No matter how things change, for me it’s okay as long as I’m honest and there are no lies, no doubts about my activities. Because for me, painting is about showing the most naked part, the most honest part.