DIESEL ART GALLERY is pleased to announce the opening of "Extreme AR Image Core", a solo exhibition of Young Japanese Artist Kazuki Umezawa.
KAZUKI UMEZAWA is an up-and-coming Japanese artist. His collage works consist of whole body of images and data circulating on the internet. The vast amount of the character motives is embedded in his work. But it is hard to trace their sources in the integrated RGB colour which makes up his picture plane. However, the fragments of embedded motif are averaged and rearranged by his hand and show their new possibility.
The exhibition is comprised of numerous new pieces and presents major works incorporating "AR." The exhibition welcomes the development unit AR3Bros., who use advanced technology known as "AR" (Augmented Reality) to push the envelope of expression, transcend the boundaries of engineers, and are known for their numerous collaborations with various artists.
For this show, by looking through the particular device, the character motives materialized in UMEZAWA's work return to the virtual space. Thus his work transcends the framework of "picture" and renders the intersection of new cross-over between the virtual world and the real world.
Photo: Shintaro Yamanaka
--To start with, please introduce yourself.
Using images from over the internet I create pictures and collages. Although I present them digitally, I have also presented analogue artwork digitally at galleries and museums.
--Please tell us about the concept of this exhibition.
As a goal, I use AR so that I can present my artwork in a way which the world couldn’t see before through just my own skills. This exhibition includes my working process, the structured layers within my work, and you might be able to call it the thoughts of my brain. The concept is for the viewer to experience a new dimension, because the superficial layer of the expressive form of painting can be seen, by not using AR they would have to develop for themselves the unseen structure into a contrasting space.
--Please tell us about the catalyst for producing new work using AR technology with “Everything included AR image core,” the circumstances of the collaboration with AR3Bros. and your feelings after you had finished.
The circumstances surrounding my collaboration with the AR3Bros. began when I went to cover an event in Minamisōma regarding the core members of the Fukushima nuclear power plant tourism plan and the catalyst was meeting face to face with Mr. Kawada. It was there that I saw a presentation that had been put together by Mr. Kawada with up to date AR assistance, and I thought that somehow my work could make use of it. I talked with him several times, and then after doing some lecture events in 2.5D I was able to work on this current solo exhibition with the jointly made creations.
In regards to “Everything included AR image core” there were several steps needed in order to reach completion. Instead of using the whole mind of an artist, at some level I cut that away to accurately experience the disintegration of an image within the flow of a video and its reconstruction, the form that is left is really taken from within me. While manipulating this completed form I felt the “texture” of AR’s work. Images and digital things certainly can’t be touched, because they are things that we only feel through the cognizance of seeing, so the “texture” doesn’t really exist. However, just like how from the mind’s memory I can recall the texture of touch, from images as well I can feel its texture. I could strongly feel the image of the inside of a tablet projected on AR, more than an imaginary but ordinary image, because beyond that image there is something real. Unfortunately, the image that is shifted across the tablet will disappear. As the nature of digital has such extreme transience, when I am creating my artwork I have made this link with the pursuit of digital texture. In my next work I really want to make use of that sensation.
--For this collage and hand drawing style of artwork which is like no other, how are you producing it? For example, first you have a completed image in mind or it just comes into view while you are working on it?
Although I can fixate on an image while looking around on the internet, at other times I have just used a blank file in Photoshop and on top of that I pop pictures onto it and those pictures quickly start to accumulate until it becomes a painting. Quite often it has started from taking inspiration from an image. However, it can just come from a small analogue pencil sketch.
--Where do you get your inspiration from?
I really think it’s when I feel strongly moved to do something and I want to hold on to that without losing the excitement and passion. That kind of moment is when I am inspired. I have often gained some stimulation after spending tens or hundreds of hours on a game that reads like a story. In junior high school and high school, such stimulation was unfortunately somehow eroded within me, however I still firmly felt that I to make something, it was like pain. I feel like now I am applying those emotions that were raised by that time to my work.
Apart from that intense stimulation, often an image comes into my eye in the wake of the moment of just continuously looking at the internet every day. If a picture exists which is bothering me, I reassemble it in my mind and in Photoshop I make an image.
--I heard a rumour that you devote an enormous amount of time on the internet, are there websites or recommended apps that you check every day?
Normally many people use ‘Twitter,’ ‘Facebook,’ ‘HATENA bookmark,’ ‘Tumblr’ and also web feeds. Also there are summary sites like ‘Niconico Video,’ the VIP thread and music game thread of ‘2ch,’ ‘Yaraon!,’ and ‘MATOME log,’ also you can see all of the sites summarized on ‘Owata antenna’ I also look at the websites and bulletin boards of the friends and painters around me. There is a really interesting website called ‘Gifpumper,’ I’m not sure why, but as it turns out I haven’t looked at it much.
I’m using the app Instagram quite conservatively. I have been putting sketches, etc, on there. Skype has mainly been an essential communication tool. ‘Dropbox’ as well is quite indispensable nowadays. Quite often I ‘Poke’ friends on ‘Facebook.’ The game app ‘Super Hexagon’ is full of long thin shafts. The app ‘Cookie Clicker’ requires a lot of finger movement too, but because it’s fun I’m also playing that. I have also been playing an app called ‘Nameko’ endlessly since it first started. There is a mahjong app called ‘Tiles of the Celestial Poles’ which I also play. I also use ‘Cookpad.’ While working I often listen to an app called ‘Onsen.’
--You have been using your own Twitter account, but for you what is social networking?
Just up to now it has been permitted to say that appropriately, it’s been like an interesting laboratory. Now it doesn’t have that kind of atmosphere. It’s a very convenient tool deeply connected with society and human relations. I think quite simply that SNS are now like a second society, but more ingenuity has meant that no one thinks about the stupid things that they do. That’s simply because it’s probably done under their real name, I vaguely think that the unique circumstances of the thrill of using the internet anonymously is going to change.
--What do you think about the contemporary Japanese art scene?
This has often been discussed, but artists are chasing their own aesthetics and realistically the combined discourse of the conditions and circumstances of the buzz around them does have a small problem. In other words, although there are a lot of unnoticed artists making good artworks, they steadily and continuously make a mechanism that requires their continued production, they get too much help in order to go through the stage of expanding overseas, the artists know almost nothing, they persist in seeking just their own world, it is a problem that they increasingly stay within their own circles. Although of course there aren’t that many people who can make a livelihood through art. Each private community is an island universe with an unevenly distributed state of affairs and we must do something to be able to break this in one go within no more than ten years. I think we have this kind of situation. For myself, because it’s really not possible to say whether I am a match for this problem, I feel that I need to work harder.
--Are there artists that you admire?
I am often asked this question, but to say “Look at this!” and explicitly mention someone can’t really be done. If I’m forced to say anything, then it would be that when I attended Shinjuku Bijyutsu Gakuin I learnt many things from the challenges of the Imaging art department. Like how to look at something, the foundation part of how to communicate an idea, so if I could give you a name it would be my teachers Morita and Shimura. In design there were parts I couldn’t quite pin down, and they really helped me with short essays and intuition tests. I think because of the evolution system for clearly communicating an idea, to announce to the world a created artwork; I feel that that foundation part of training needs to be shared more.
He isn’t an artist, but I felt that it was like doing many artist-like activities when recently I had to work together with Azuma Hiroki. Though, I think many artists don’t have the awareness to impart a clear message for contemporary Japanese society.
In addition, it is quite influential how a large amount of chaotic imagery is generated by Niconico Video. That feeling that handmade work and their recipients are literally overwhelming the screen, I think that in the world it is only Japan making this one thing like no one else.
--Recently what has been your favourite movie, music or anime?
I don’t have any particular favourite movies.
The original game of the anime known as ‘Dragonball’ and its sequel were very interesting. Battle Royale and Ace Attorney had satisfying content with dark characters so I could really enjoy them. I think because of the so called ‘SEKAI-KEI’, and the reason people died or were killed was blown away by the expansion, preferences were divided. While on one hand geek experts were criticized, although young high school nerds had a popular point, after this it felt like you could feel the end of the movement of being able to enjoy geek culture.
Masafumi Takada was in charge of the music for the ‘Beatmania II DX’ game and provided the music direction, so because a large percentage of the same music was used for both the game and the anime I could really enjoy the soundtrack. The BGM game was made with the kind of thinking that essentially play shouldn’t pose any difficulty, so it is quite suitable to listen to when making something or creating an artwork.
--Please tell us your thoughts about the current geek culture and how it is changing with the times.
I hear that the impression given by the word geek has changed from when it was originally used. The first generations of so called geeks were like maniacs and were centred on males; these extreme geeks are now just one part of those that exist today. In present day 2013, it has a wide meaning, in another example, if you examine the information about normal middle school students at convenience stores circulating the Vocaloid song they are drawn to by smartphone. By looking at Nico Nama (also known as Niconico Live) singers sing a track by Bokaro (Vocaloid), and then in class they talk about it like it is an everyday thing, to define those girls as geeks is quite wide and probably quite unconscious. It is wide, but shallow, while one meaning of geek culture as fashionable is spreading is good to an extent, in the future the core of nerd culture will be increasingly underground and it will unfortunately become a minority. Even if we say geek culture in one word, it has become mixed in various different cultures in both depth and position; I think in future that we might need more work connected to this.
--Please tell us about your affiliation with Chaos Lounge and its activities.
Chaos Lounge is a net painters SNS connection to install into the continuous reality of space like a draw off, because present day Japan has been visualized exactly like how exhibitions and projects have been variously promoted. As some extreme things have been done Chaos Lounge has been criticized a lot, but basically it is expressing an initiative that art should embody present day images and I think it will continue from now on. Specifically in December for the first time in a long time there will be a big exhibition, I am looking forward to personally exhibiting too.
--Is there anything that you want to try in the future? Or any there any projects already planned?
I would really like to try properly drawing a manga created by a game. I would also like to continuously make artwork using extreme AR’s image core. I would be very happy if I could really get into a music game, but there isn’t enough time.
Next year I plan to do a few exhibitions together with a fashion brand, Chroma. Also, as mentioned previously, in December I will have my Chaos Lounge exhibition.
--I hope that the message of your work from now on is appreciated by everyone.
I think that for people who came to see something that they don’t know, I would like them to know more. For others who have already seen many things, I would like them to appreciate it with an open mind.