Active on the Asian art scene in Japan and Taiwan, yuta okuda attempts to depict and affirm the beauty of the natural order through living creatures and flowers. We talked to the fashion designer turned artist of TAKEO KIKUCHI about his activities and his background.
First of all, could you give us a brief description of your work?
My work is based on unconscious self-projection and self-interpretation. On an unconscious level, I think of creatures, and on a conscious level, I turn them into Hannya, Marilyn, Komainu, and so on.
The subject matter I want to depict unconsciously is always flowers and living things, and from there I try to express two conflicting themes in one piece, such as beauty and ugliness, love and jealousy, life and death. My motifs are always living things, and I try to depict the beauty of the natural order with the concept of the food chain.
743×607, 2019, pigment ink /Kent Paper
You used to be a fashion designer, what made you become an artist?
I think it was because I wanted to be an artist so badly. Designers and artists are completely different.
Commercial designers are not expected to have individuality. We need to do a certain design, in a certain way, on a certain schedule. But that was stressful. So I think the start was really just that, “I just want to draw the pictures I want to draw.
So did you start painting right away?
No, at first I just dabbled in drawing at home. When I look back now, the pictures from that time seem to be very dense. It was like I was letting out my negative emotions. I didn’t even think about showing them to others. Not even a little. It’s my toxin, so to speak (laughs).
Purple Rose (Pink x Purple)
33.3×24.2cm, acrylic and pigment ink on canvas
How did you get your start as a professional artist?
There were people who approved of my paintings. There were people who said, “I like your work,” even though my negativity was on full display. It was a surprise, and to put it bluntly, it made me feel good. That would never happen to 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 around that time that I saw some of my friends who were artists, and I was jealous of their work, so I thought, “I should do that too. But if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it professionally, not as a hobby, and not half-heartedly. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it thoroughly.
You said that your works are self-projected. Has this been your stance from the beginning?
In the beginning, it was all about “just keep painting. I would paint for three days and sleep for half a day, just trying to get it out. I would draw for three days and sleep for half a day, just to get it out. When I let out everything that had been piling up, everything that was coming up, I was finally able to see the concept. That’s “self-projection”.
It’s the exact opposite of fashion. In fashion, the concept of make-up comes first, and then I build from there, but what I do in art is to discover myself, in other words, 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 are outputted.
Abstract Bouquet (Navy x Purple)
33.3×24.2cm, acrylic and pigment ink on canvas
Isn’t it hard to get input when it’s based on your own experiences?
I ran out in the first three years (laughs). 30 years of my life hit the bottom in three years. (laughs) But I think that’s the top 30 years of my life. I think I can dig deeper. I think I’ve finally come to understand myself over the past three years. I feel like I’ve finally come to know myself.
Recently, I have been using ink in more of my works. Is this change intentional?
My work does change, after all, because it is linked to who I am. Even if you ask me to draw pictures that are exactly the same as they used to be, both materially and spiritually, it would be very difficult.
It changes, 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, I’m always trying to update my materials. I have tried watercolor, copperplate, oil, Japanese painting, and clay. As a result, I decided that ink was the one that best suited my nature.
Abstract Single Flower (Sax x Purple)
36 x 14cm, acrylic and pigment ink on canvas
Now that you have found new goals and challenges, you are aiming for the next step. Do you already have a concrete idea of what that goal is?
My works are self-projections, so again, not all of my visions of the future are clear. What I can say is that I still don’t lie to myself. I want to be naked and honest in my work. That’s why I want to make the most of my experiences that come naturally to me.
Now that I’ve finally gotten used to being empty, I think I have a lot of work ahead of me to take in various experiences and refine them into paintings. Understanding the changes in my environment and myself, I will incorporate them and incorporate them into my paintings. No matter how I change, I am okay with it as long as I am honest, without any doubts and without lying to myself.
For me, painting is about showing the most naked and honest part of myself.
After studying abroad in London, she obtained a diploma from the Master Course in Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni London. After returning to Japan, she worked as a fashion designer at the fashion brand “TAKEO KIKUCHI”. After leaving the company, she started her career not as a fashion designer but as an artist “yutaokuda”. Using delicate lines and blotches, she depicts the beauty of the natural order, such as the food chain, using flowers and living creatures as motifs. At times, she uses deceptive techniques to depict both sides of contradictions, such as life and death, beauty and ugliness. Currently, he is actively showing his works in solo and group exhibitions both in Japan and abroad.