Born in 1978, Hiroki Tsukuda spent his early years watching Sci-Fi movies. This seems to have shaped his artistic career with a futuristic atmosphere – as you can see in his cool masks and graphic collages. PingMag visited Tsukuda’s two solo exhibitions currently in Tokyo, at Diesel Denim Gallery in Aoyama and Nanzuka Underground in Shibuya, and talked to him about his futuristic vision – and why he likes Max Ernst.
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane
You actually graduated with a degree in film, but many of your current works are drawings and collages. What made you focus on that?
I’ve always loved to create drawings, so I studied design on my own after graduating from the video department. That was around 2002, when graphic art was really popular and many works from overseas, such as Rostarr and Kaws, had just reached Japan, and became a huge influence for me. After that, I called myself a graphic designer and presented drawings in a street art style. And as graphic T-shirts were popular, I got a lot of work from the apparel industry.
’Baywatch’ beauty transformed: Hiroki Tsukuda’s “Statue of Liberty Leading the People” exhibited at Diesel Denim Gallery.
Post-war gruesomeness: Hiroki Tsukuda’s “1946″ exhibited at Diesel Denim Gallery.
So your output went along with the trends….
That might be very true. (laughs) But at the same time, I was more motivated to create permanent works rather than expendables, and I slowly began realising the limitations of the design world. After my exhibition in 2004, I was looking for the next venue and found Nanzuka Underground (NUG), which had just been established. The owner, Nanzuka, suggested that I start to work more as a visual artist, and I have been concentrating on art ever since then.
Another war reference: Hiroki Tsukuda’s “Guernica” exhibited at Diesel Denim Gallery.
Hiroki Tsukuda’s “The Meeting of Witches” exhibited at Diesel Denim Gallery.
I see, your encounter with NUG was a turning point. What is the theme of your current NUG exhibition, “Visionary Sensibility”?
The term “Visionary Sensibility” comes from a book by German surrealist artist Max Ernst. Ernst produced collage works in large numbers and at one point, I realised that his way of getting inspiration, by seeing an object and imagining a totally different thing was quite similar to my way of creating. The title stands for representing works that were created from seeing an unrelated vision and works with the ability to make people see a different vision.
When we take a look at these works, I had the impression that there might be a story of some sort from the very beginning….
I don’t start a picture by making a story first. Instead, I play around with shapes, and then come up with a story after seeing the picture gradually come to life:
For instance, the story I made for this work [shown above] is about a drunken man falling asleep in a taxi, and the driver leaves the sleeping man behind at the top of an unknown mountain. He starts to explore the area but it is dangerous at night, so he decides to spend the night there. And when he comes down the mountain in the morning, he meets these characters…. People often say that my works look ‘futuristic’ or ‘resemble something out of a science fiction work,’ but I have never been too conscious of that. I’m just from the generation who grew up watching Star Wars amongst other things, that’s probably why I like this kind of style.
Trying to show the panorama of imaginative religious history: “The One” exhibited at Diesel Denim Gallery.
I think the real future might actually be quite boring, while our image of future filled with high-tech gadgets and flying cars might already be an illusion itself. Even if the technology for a flying car was invented, I wonder if it would actually be put to practical use, as there is the issue of legislation and moreover, it’s dangerous… (laughs) But I always loved the future as a fantasy.
How about your work process: Your collage works seem to be quite differentiated….
I scan the parts I have drawn before and import the data to deconstruct them further, then I mix them with photo collages and add hand-drawn elements in the process. This work [on the left] is actually an oil painting based on the original data that was produced that way.
The masks in some of your drawings look similar to the 3D works displayed at the exhibition. Have you ever wanted to turn the whole of your collage drawings into 3D objects?
Certainly. There is no difference in the process of making drawings and three-dimensional works – but I use pictures of things that I actually can’t obtain, so… turning drawings into models would be quite difficult….
Finally, what are your future plans?
I would like to improve my painting technique. Also, I want to create bigger three-dimensional works. I’m quite good at making geometric works, so an exhibition of large rocks with such patterns would be nice too.
Inside the exhibition at Diesel Denim Gallery.
Deer with mask, at Diesel Denim Gallery.
Any final words for people who are going to see your exhibits?
People often suggest “It’s about a future war, isn’t it?” But it would be nice if they would rather not see it as that – there usually tend to be silly stories in my mind, you see. (laughs) And of course feedback on people’s thoughts after seeing my works would be appreciated.
Hiroki, thank you very much today!
Right now, Hiroki Tsukuda has two simultaneous exhibitions in Tokyo, so don’t miss them!
The artist, Hiroki Tsukuda, wearing one of his original masks. Ha!
“Visionary Sensibility” exhibition
Location: Nanzuka Underground, Shibuya.
Date: September 15th – October 14th, 2007.
Location: Diesel Denim Gallery, Aoyama.
Date: September 4th – November 18th, 2007.