Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Hiroshi Ikushima, painter

"Donau Bar" by Hiroshi Ikushima

Sometimes interviewing can be very precise and specific, but other times you just throw out questions and hope for a good response. In February 2012, I interviewed three Realist artists for an article I was writing about the Hoki Museum. As they were all good painters of nudes, I sent them three identical sets of questions. This is the response from Hiroshi Ikushima.

CBL: Tell our readers why you have become a Realist painter?

HI: I had nothing better to do at the time.

CBL: How is the situation of realist painting in Japanese art? Is it still marginalized? Is it becoming more popular?

HI: It seems to me that realist painting in japan is a bit of a fad and I do think it is gaining popularity right now but I really don't know what will happen in the future.

CBL: Last week I went to three exhibitions at major public museums of Japanese contemporary artists. Of course, none of them were realists. They were Ay-O, Atsuko Tanaka, and Hiroji Noda. What do you think about the dominance of non-realist art in public museums? Do you sometimes get angry about the apparent bias?

HI: Is there any reason that a baseball player would get angry with a football player just because they play different sports? I enjoy both sports depending on my mood.

CBL: Who are the artists who have influenced and inspired you?

HI: Basically I've been very influenced by 17th century european art. I would consider this my base technically however growing up I couldn't help but to be influenced by animation, photography, movies, manga, and everything else that was happening at the time.

CBL: You are best known for your paintings of the female form and nudes. What is the attraction of the female form to you, apart from the attractions it has for any healthy heterosexual male?

HI: Actually, I have no particular preference. It just so happens that recently my models have all been female. However, I have painted male models quite frequently in the past.

CBL: Realist oil painting is considered a very European style of art. The tonal qualities in particular are very different from anything in indigenous Japanese art. This has led some scholars to speculate that there may even be some differences between the way in which the European and East Asian eye perceives light. Light in Western Europe is more diffuse because of the clouds, mist, and the angle of the sun (it is much further North), while Japanese light is characteristically bright and intense, so that bright colours are more important than tones. What do you as a Japanese painter working in a tonally-rich Western realist style think about these points?

HI: I honestly don't see the difference between western artists and japanese artists. Historically, there may be stylistic differences due to culture but for those who want to paint realism like an old master in the modern age the difficulty is the same.

CBL: How important is it for realist art to have someone like Mr. Hoki who collects realist art and creates a museum like the Hoki Museum?

HI: This is a very unique museum and for me it presents a great opportunity as a realist painter but I actually don't know how important this is in relation to the development of realist art in general.

CBL: How do you feel about showing your art, which is very traditional, in such a futuristic building as the Hoki?

HI: Actually, it doesn't matter where my paintings are exhibited because I always feel embarrassed by them. I don't know why that is but somehow they never feel finished.

CBL: What do you like about the building? What are its good points?

The Month Ends
HI: Well, its a beautiful, modern, futuristic building - I think.

CBL: At the exhibition you are showing a painting called The Month Ends. Could you tell our readers a little bit about the story of that painting, such as its origins and meaning?

HI: Believe it or not I used four models for this painting and so it was like a montage. Giving a title to this painting was quite difficult but it just happened to be the end of the month when I finished so the title "Tsukigomori" came to me and that was very beautiful because its a poetic expression in Japanese.

CBL: How do you work with your models? Do they pose for long periods or do you use photography? How about when you paint nudes? Does that create any special difficulties? I am thinking the models must feel very self-conscious. How do you deal with that?

HI: I became a professional painter in 2004. After 2004 I began using photographs because they were convenient and inexpensive. Primarily the models I use are ordinary people who work for a living so it would be next to impossible for me to hire them full time.

CBL: Do you use foreign models?

HI: I lived in Europe and America for 5 years. During that time I used European and American models exclusively for my paintings. I have no particular preference and in fact both western and asian models feel the same when I paint them. But I suppose that western models are a bit easier for me to paint due to the more sculptural aspect of their faces.

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