CBL: Sex is a constant theme for you. Are you obsessed by sex in the normal way, or is sex merely a useful way to achieving a strong artistic effect?
MA: Well, it's not just me. In modern developed countries, because of the amount of sex surrounding us, people have become something like monkeys in a zoo, masturbating on and off. Whatever is in my paintings is, in a way, entirely natural, because people have made such things.
CBL: Talking of achieving an artistic effect, one of the things I feel that you are trying to do is shock people. Why is this important to you as an artist?
MA: Simply, I think it is an expression of my own character. I like the clearness and easy-to-understand nature of others' reactions. For me ambiguity is a weak point. From my first year at university, I've always wanted to draw concrete pictures. Also, I wanted to draw something that would be disliked by professors, and what I drew was hated, just as I intended. At that time, such work was a way of defining my artistic identity, and I thought it would also help me find success.
CBL: The shock of your "Dog" pictures comes from the mixture of very sweet and very dark elements. Your high technique, which references Nihonga bijinga, and the prettiness and innocence of the girl contrast with the dark situation and storyline. To shock, is it necessary to combine such unlikely opposites?
MA: It's not just limited to sweetness and darkness. Like water and the oil, we are attracted to opposites. The thing called "art," which is the opposite of nature, is a kind of artificial behaviour for me.
CBL: The images in "Dog" reduce women to the level of complete subjection and reliance on men. There is also a hint of bestiality because the dog-like "creature" is clearly sexually available. Do you ever feel a little uncomfortable or guilty creating such a controversial image?
MA: Perhaps a little, but because I didn't make it happen, I don't think I feel particularly guilty.
CBL: Could the paintings also be read as a comment on Japanese women's "passive aggressive" nature – constantly using their sex in a passive way directed at men? In a way, they cut off their own legs and hands by wearing high heels and long decorated nails, don't they?
MA: That's a very interesting theory. But when I'm making such art, I'm the type of person who doesn't really think too much about things from the side of the woman.
CBL: How do women respond to the "Dog" pictures and your erotic art in general?
MA: One in three like it, one in three dislike it, and one in three are indifferent.
CBL: Who is the model? Is she a real person or a composite, like Zeuxis’s painting of Helen?
MA: There isn't one model. I used some idol's photographs for reference.
CBL: What inspired the "Dog" series of paintings? How did they develop? Did you have any doubts about following such a controversial muse?
MA: With this work I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the Taisho era (1912-1926). This girl is like a Taisho period beauty.
CBL: I was very impressed by your painting "Giant Salamander" at the Neoteny Japan show. But why are the girls in this work so young?
MA: That painting has lots of meaning. But the atmosphere that girls give off from the ages of 12 to 14 is something very special. It is a miraculous phenomenon and there is a very limited time to appreciate it.
CBL: Also, I notice that the composition carefully allows us to see both the ass and the cunt of the young girls. Is this a reference to the idea of "fan service" from manga, where the characters are shown from revealing angles to please fans?
MA: That is so, but the "fan service" is in your own mind.
CBL: I think that this picture was at the heart of the Neoteny show because, as you know, neoteny means a mixture of adult and childish qualities. The painting shows prepubescent girls presented in an adult sexual way, while the salamander is an example of neoteny in the animal world. Unlike other amphibians it keeps its external gills throughout its adult life. Do you feel that you are in some way an example of neoteny yourself – adult but also in some way immature?
MA: Definitely. As a person over 40, I am conscious that the child’s mind continues within us, even in a bad sense.
CBL: You have also created art that references tentacle porn and other common fetishes – sexy high school girls, etc. This is the kind of image of a "strange Japan" that foreigners quickly pick up on. Do you think your art helps to promote an otaku version of Japan around the world?
MA: I don't think my art has helped perpetuate that image of Japan, but now that you mention it, perhaps I might try to do so from now on. Creators express the features and mental essence of their own time and society, but, I myself do not read cartoons or watch animation, and I don’t play computer games either, so I don’t think that my art can be called otaku
CBL: Personally, what do you find sexy? Which artists, situations, people, or activities turn you on?
MA: I don’t use the word sexy on an everyday basis. Basically onanists think about that. I have also made many works that are not erotic and don't feature young girls, so please look at those too.