Kosuke Motohashi, who was born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1989, has positioned art as “a ritual of confirmation for human beings,” an activity unique to humanity. While taking various approaches such as painting, sculpture, and installation, he has consistently maintained a perspective that explores the relational meaning between the work and the viewer, and has presented his own visual language.
You have been creating works on the themes of “death” and “life”, can I ask you how you got started in art?
-I started working as an artist around 2013. I am a self-taught artist, but I bought my first canvas in 2013 with the intention of making art as an artist, and had my first solo exhibition two years later.
I think the impetus for my activities came from my repeated experiences related to death, such as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake when I was a child and my own accident. For example, if someone told me, “You will die tomorrow,” I think everyone would try to leave their property and knowledge to others, but in the same way, I wanted to leave the energy inside of me to someone else. That was the beginning of my career as an artist. In the same way, I wanted to leave the energy inside me to someone else.
Impervious, 2020, oil on canvas, 1,167×727mm
There are many ways to do this, such as writing or singing, but why art?
-That’s a difficult one (laughs). I think it’s because I’ve always loved to draw.
Other than drawing, what else were you interested in?
-I was interested in social psychology, psychoanalysis, and also international aid. I studied psychology in college, and there was a time when I thought I would work for the United Nations after I left college.
I first became interested in psychology when I was in junior high school. One of my family members suffered from mental illness, and I realized that a person’s happiness or unhappiness depends on the way they look at things. That’s why I thought that if I studied psychology, I could make people happy.
Since I was a child, I’ve tended to sympathize with others, and the line between myself and others or the world is blurred. So it’s like I want to be happy with both myself and others as a set. When I was a student, I counseled people my own age and was even invited to student salons to talk about “what love is” (laughs). (laughs) But as I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t really a business. I couldn’t imagine making a living out of it.
So you went from there to art?
-There are both negative and positive factors, but in the former case, I think I wasn’t suited for a regular job. I couldn’t follow rules that I didn’t agree with, and when I thought about the meaning of my birth and how I could make the most of the fact that I was God and that I was Kosuke Motohashi, I decided to do what I could immerse myself in the most and what I believed to be meaningful.
Universal Composition, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 1,620×1,303, Installation view at elephantSTUDIO
What did you feel or discover while working on your works?
-I used to think that “art = self-expression,” but that feeling changed as I went along. A brilliant architect named Louis Kahn said, “The most beautiful part of art does not belong to the individual creator,” and I really agree with that, and I have a stronger sense that the world and people are painted through my hands rather than by me.
Now I want to create works that people can believe in, or rather, that can become a kind of spiritual center for them. In this day and age, especially in Tokyo, the speed of change is incredible. The world and values change rapidly. I think that the faster things change, the more we need something universal to ground us. And of course, for myself. That’s why I want to create universal works.
When I first started making art, I used to draw works that I couldn’t agree with. None of them were straightforward or convincing. I would look at them the next morning and think, “This is a bad work. I think the reason why my works are not convincing is because I am lying.
I’m actually quite a person who cares about a lot of things: my age, my social relationships with the people around me, the era I live in, my gender, etc. When I made up my mind to forget all that and try to draw, I was able to create a good work. When I decided to forget about all that, I was able to create a good piece of work, one that I felt was true even years later.
Many of your works are based on the theme of life itself, but is that because you want to create something universal?
-Yes, that may be the case. I think universality and truthfulness are important.
People who buy your work will look at it every day, and they would not like it if there were any lies in it. Art has the aspect of providing the viewer with a perspective, or a way of looking at things. If there is a painting with a message that says, “You should die right now,” the viewer will accept it without question. I believe that doing something that is not true is harmful to the world, and I want to create works that are believable and that harmonize with reality by accepting them.
Jizo of Light (orange,blue,green,purple)》2020, acrylic on wood, 1,300×450mm
Among your works, many of them are related to life and death, aren’t they?
-Perhaps it’s because issues related to this are the most pressing. This year in particular, I think the entire planet has never been more conscious about death than in 2020. My acquaintance’s partner passed away, and I think it’s a feeling that is shared by all of us in society, as we lose someone close to us, or feel afraid that our own lives are in danger. I think that this is a feeling that is shared by all of us in society.
There is always tragic news on the computer display or on the other side of the TV, but the world treats it as an economic or lifestyle issue. But deep down, I think people are having a hard time digesting the thought that someone has died. I think that’s what the year 2020 is all about.
In response to this, the questions of where dead people go and how we should accept death is a matter of religion, but in modern life, I feel that it is left entirely up to the individual to interpret it for themselves. As an artist, I wonder how I should tackle the division between life and death.
I’m going to have a solo exhibition next time, and I’m thinking of focusing on the “living ourselves”. Taro Okamoto said, “Art is about living,” and being alive is a privilege in the first place. That’s why in my solo exhibition, I’m planning to show works with a strong physicality, or works that celebrate life, and on the other hand, I’m thinking of dealing with the simple question, “Where did all the dead people go?
Bloom, 2020, oil on wood, 1,303 x 894mm
Do you have any goals that motivate you as you continue to create?
I feel that my hands and the mind that feels something are all there to create. So, in a sense, I want to use my production as a way of respecting the body and life that I have been given.
Also, it may be a bit presumptuous, but I simply want to make the people I am involved with as happy as possible, and I want to be involved with as many people as possible.