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Interview with Yuhei SAITO (page 3/3)
Written by Kae ISHII   
Published: December 24 2010

Ways to Present

-- I think Saito-san talks more on ways and environments to show your works than your works of art themselves. Could you tell me why?

Saito: I have an urge to control up to the point how the images circulated down to viewers after my works are exhibited. I would like to enjoy that process. I would like to be responsible for the works I created even after they are viewed. For example, having a live exhibition and having an exhibition at a commercial gallery have different locational attributes, so the works get through to the audience differently. I would like to experiment through that kind of simple trials. Presenting my works to be acknowledged as art at a place having art attributes is not a very interesting event for me. Showing one's art works straight to audience is one way, and I don't mind other people doing it but I want to add one more action to it. I kind of think I would like to utilize more when I exhibit my works. I would like to say I have these different ways to show and use my pictures. And I would like to include all of these in my expression.

I told you I didn't like studying but I liked geography. I like to imagine the life of unknown people in unknown places from before. Of course I like traveling, but I also like reading travel writings and giving more than a passing thought to them. Imagining about people living daily under a totally different value system is educational for me to be able to imagine how my pictures are perceived. For example, I go to school, eat lunch, engage in no extracurricular activities, just go back home, and listen to music aimlessly. Then I imagine children carrying stones every day. That way, it helps me to imagine from what view points other people are seeing my pictures while I am seeing them from my view point.

-- Well, I would like to ask you then. Artists usually dedicate their energy to create their works, don't they?

Saito: Absolutely! (laugh). Let's see, I like pictures but maybe I am somewhat objective about them. It's like, I paint a picture, and when I feel I am content with it, I put it aside and start to paint the next one. I am like a one man painting factory in a way. I drew three or four pictures simultaneously when I was working together with Asai-san at a stay-and-create in Osaka. I circle around my pictures and paint like I paint here and then there while the paint here gets dry, and that goes on and on. It was like I worked based on a process sheet. Asai-san said, "You never stop!".

-- Don't you have times you get distressed because you can't paint like you want to?

Saito: No I don't. I think I don't have the preceding desire. There are times I feel I missed something from my picture along the way, or I stuffed in too much. I draw no drafts so…

-- I hear, for example, in a case of students, some of them start to cry when they get criticism about their works.

Saito: Oh why? Are the critics so harsh? Do they feel like they are rejected? I never feel that way. Because all of my works are my 1 percent and my 100 percent at the same time. I work hard to create them, but then they are only parts. I don't care when someone says something not very good about them. I'd get angry if someone said something in a tone of belligerence though. I'd feel a bit bitter if someone said he didn't understand. But I never take my works too seriously.

Also everyone is an individual, so I try not to see people as icons through media. I would not think deeply about what it means to have a desire to be told in certain ways from someone. I think I can kind of guess whether he likes my pictures from the type of works he praises. I would just take it as it is when someone said my picture didn't ring a bell. I don't say I never really care about people's feedback, but I try not to care too much about it. That is probably why I can paint so many pictures.

Circle X

fig. 12 View from "Circle X"; Asai (left), NANOOK (center), Sayaka Oikawa's work (right, 2010)

fig. 13 "Yokokaze Chui" (2010)
Poster paint, paint, and ink, 17.5×25.5cm

-- Taking your future activities into account, would you tell us about your activities in this coming summer?

Saito: First of all, regarding "Circle X", I just wanted to have an exhibition for ordinary drawings. So I listed the members somehow.

-- I was very impressed because there were many good drawings of the artists I had no knowledge of. The total balance of the exhibition was also great (see figure 12 and 13).

I got a good reputation for it. All members except for Asai-san work in fields other than the so-called fine arts. I didn't select them deliberately. I just selected people who make good drawings. And it was a natural consequence. The seven members were Asai-san, Sayaka Oikawa, Yusuke Gunji, stomachache, NANOOK, Hiroyuki Nisogi and myself.

Sayaka Oikawa-chan and Gunji are the members of a four-person group called OPAOPA that Asa-chan (Asai-san) and I formed in 2008. Oyo-chan (Oikawa's nickname) has not exhibited her works before. She used to show me her works sometimes so I knew her drawings were great. That is why I invited her this time. I got to know Oyo-chan through Hikaru-san. The picture of hers that I saw for the first time was the one she drew when she was working on a film making staff. It was simply technically great. She said she had never studied drawing. I had more chances to see her drawings after we formed OPAOPA, and I found they were awesome.

-- I hear Oikawa-san is drawing something like the after image of light.

Saito: Yeah that is true. She says she just traces the lines that stand out on their own when she is watching the paper. I never thought she was drawing so psychically (laugh). I saw Yusuke Gunji's portfolio which he published by himself. That is how I got to know him. I saw the portfolio in 2005, and I thought he was awesome so I contacted him. The portfolio has fine line drawings with collaged stickers. They are extremely dense. The stickers were the real thing. I heard he made only 8 of them. I met Hiroyuki Nisogi pretty much the same way a few years back. I saw his portfolio called "UNKNOWN POP" and I contacted him. But we didn't become friends after that. We were kind of acquaintances who visited each other's exhibitions once a half year. He uses a drawing tool for personal computers called "Bulletin Board Draw" for his drawings. I invited him because he had a totally different style from other exhibiters. He also exhibited handwritten drawing this time. I was so glad he exhibited a large-sized drawing.

NANOOK is a graduate of the same school I graduated from. I got to know him through our mutual friend after I graduated from the school. He used to make books, badges and t-shirts as a member of a group called "A Delicate Relation You & Me". He used to draw more design-ish drawings, I think. I don't know how this came out but I kind of started to develop a liking for his drawings. I wonder what his style is. He is influenced from the visuals of the music he listens to, such as Grindcore or Death Metal. His drawings are pretty pop though.

-- NANOOK-san's drawings were very popular, weren't they?

Saito: Yes they were. NANOOK is going to have a private exhibition(*8) through his exhibits at "Circle X". I am very pleased to have had this exhibition, really. stomachache is two sisters. They are acquaintances of NANOOK and his friends. Cultural elements they were influenced by are directly expressed in their drawings as motifs. Their style is also pretty different from mine. I think there are many people who draw this kind of drawings, but stomachache simply draws beautiful lines, and their sense of organizing their exhibits is superb. The air of the exhibition changed much with their participation. It's like the whole exhibition was tightened up.

-- How did you come with the exhibition title?

Saito: It means we are an undefined anonymous circle. When I organized this group exhibition, I just didn't want to express something by intentionally selecting certain artists. I don't mind if other people do that, but I don't want to shoulder ideologies, and I think the other exhibitors would not be happy with that kind of approach. I am very confident in this exhibition. I think there is no doubt the exhibitors being excellent artists.

And also the members are really fun people to talk with when we get together. Actually, I was pretty conscious about that. I don't like an awkward atmosphere on sites. Like there are times when I participate in a group exhibition, and sometimes the site is filled with an air in which people excessively care about who the best artist is. I don't like such situations. People are very hostile and full of self-consciousness. I hate hardball exhibitions. It's no fun winning those kinds of competitions. I think people should do what they have to do calmly. You know, that kind of hostilities ruin the air of exhibitions. I wanted to make a good site atmosphere as well as good exhibits.

-- There was "The 1st Retrospective exhibition of Takahiro Hirama" exhibition at 20202 which Saito-san organized during the same period of "Circle X".

Saito: Like I told you earlier, I am interested in Hirama for his expression in his unique style. He can express not only in music, but in whatever medium I ask him to challenge. So I had been thinking of creating an opportunity for people to see the variety of his works. I did a major reshuffle once in my private exhibition "23:59" that I had two years ago. I asked Hirama to have his private exhibition for a few days during the reshuffling. I talked about Hirama to Fujimoto-san when I had my private exhibition at 20202. He suggested, "It might be interesting to have Hirama's exhibition." That's how this exhibition was projected.

-- Who decided on the title "The 1st Retrospective exhibition of Takahiro Hirama"?

Saito: Hirama decided on that. He thanked me for allowing him to go with the title (laugh)

-- What kind of activities you are thinking of doing in the future?

Saito: Not only waiting for offers from other people but also I would like to properly do my own projects. I learned from planning Hirama's private exhibition that I could still enjoy it without me exhibiting my own works. So I would like to organize exhibitions for other artists again. I have a lot of exhibitions I would like to organize.

Talking about myself, I am making a free newspaper with Chihiro Fukushi-san and I would like to continue that. Also, now I feel like painting a large picture. I'd like to paint without any themes and such. But simply painting something would only be giving out my energy like I used to. So I would like to keep thinking about how I presented my works after I completed them.

I think Saito's making his works of art is his life itself. Since painting and making are too routine for him, there is no need for him to have a reason for his expression. For him, even the framework of art is just one way of looking at things. He doesn't seem to have a special interest in presenting his purposes or claims through his works. By being objective about his works, he can even be very conscious about the ways to present them. His varied activities come from these characteristics.

Saito's stance of continuing expression bears not only his works, but also collaboration with other artists and curation activities this year. I wonder what his continuation and development will be next year. I have high expectations for his future activities.
(Translated by Yoshikazu Noda)

Please refer to "http://blog.goo.ne.jp/hintandgesture/e/8a8dad94d0f1adad271efc03803a57a9" for Saito's biography. The known future activities of his are: A private exhibition "Library of Lop Nur Publisher" from Jan.11, 2011 to Feb.22, 2011 at Tana Gareri gallery (http://rad-commons.main.jp/tana/) in Jinbo-cho Kanda, and an website "Library of Lop Nur Publisher" for Saito's works will go live in January 2011. The URL for the site will be announced in the website "Hint And Gesture" at http://blog.goo.ne.jp/hintandgesture/.

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NANOOK's private exhibition "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC" was held at an art space mograg garage in Kokubunji from December 9, 2010 to December 26, 2010.

Last Updated on October 13 2015

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