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In Depth Chat With Koushin Yamada – A Talented Artist From Japan Who Dedicates His Life To Creating Mesmerising And Otherworldly Art

With a passion like none, Koushin Yamada from Japan has made a name for himself in the world of art. After dedicating his life to art, he has found peace in creating work that satisfies himself, no one and nothing else. He’s always searching for something different and shows us that different can be better instead of  ‘following the crowd.’

日本のファインアーティスト山田耕臣は、たぐい稀なる情熱で、世界のアート界に名をなした芸術家である。彼は、生活をアートに捧げ、何よりも自分自身が満足出来し、自分の心を癒すことが出来る作品を創作し続けてきた。いつも、新しいものを探求し続ける山田耕臣。彼の作品は、大衆に迎合し、既存のものを追い求めるより、何か、新しいものを見つける方が面白いことを、見る人に思い起こさせてくれる。ルーツ・アンド・レジャーは、耕臣の作品、インスピレーション、生活に共感し、彼にインタビューした。 

Roots and Leisure talks with the hyper-creative Japanese artist Koushin Yamada from Tokyo. Read on to know about his life, his art and his source of inspiration for his wacky pieces!

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

Koushin Yamada is a hyper-creative artist from Japan

  • Konichiwa Koushin San! Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and your background.

  • こんにちわ、耕臣さん。まず、耕臣さんご自身について、どの様な創作活動をされてきたか、また、生い立ちについて、簡単に教えて下さい。

Konichiwa! My name is Koushin Yamada. I am 33 years old and was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Growing up, my family always struggled both financially and physically. My father, who was a clay model artist and art dealer, left my family when I was still a teenager. I didn’t particularly have many close friends and spent a lot of time alone. I dropped out of high school and started working when I was 15.

“All credit is due to my mother’s unconditional support that my life did not end differently. Those years of struggle made me grow and foster different values compared to those of others. I decided very early on to value my life and give it meaning through art. Today, I am married to a Swedish woman and blessed with few, but close friends, and a hunger for self-expression. I am always absorbed in creative activities.”

私の名前は山田耕臣といいます。現在33歳、日本の東京で生まれ育ちました。私の育った家庭は決して裕福ではなく、色々と問題もあり私は15歳から働き始めました。造形作家であり、画商でもあった父は私が10代半ばの頃に家族の元を去りました。以来私は友達もいなく孤独と向き合う時間を多く過ごしました。私が道を踏み外さなかったのは偉大な母のおかげでもあります。そして一人ぼっちの時間は私を他人とは違う価値観で大きく成長させてくれました。現在私にはスウェーデン人の妻がおり、数人の仲間にも恵まれていますが自己表現に飢えています。過去の私を清算するかのように創作活動に没頭しています。

  • Introduce us to your work. What got you started as an artist?

  • 耕臣さんのこれまでの創作活動について、もう少し詳しく知りたいです。何がキッカケで、芸術家になろうと思われたのですか。

My work is mainly two-dimensional, consisting of various forms of paintings on a plain surface. In addition, I also create origami – which is traditional Japanese figures of folded paper – on which I paint and then use for making various installations, as well as on paintings. I have always sought to draw the truth of the world, as it is seen through my eyes with a touch of my own imagination and fictional elements.

Although I originally started as a manga artist, I began to paint as I wanted to expand my range. At that time, I felt like I had plunged into the vast world of art for the first time. I also attended a vocational college for a while, but would for the most part label myself a self-taught artist. Since my interest in art started with drawing cartoons, I often draw my original characters and still thoroughly enjoy the process of it.

絵の具等を使った平面画や折り紙を支持体としたペインティングが主な私の作品です。あくまで私の目を通して見た真実の世界と私が影響を受けてきたフィクションのイメージを重ねて描きます。私は元々漫画を描いていたのですが、表現の幅を広げようと思いペインティングを始めたところアートの世界へのめり込んでしまいました。一時期専門学校にも通ってみましたが、ほとんどは独学で学びました。やはり漫画から始めたせいか、キャラクターを描く事が多いです。

Origami Work by Koushin Yamada.

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

Origami Work by Koushin Yamada.

  • What is your motivation and inspiration to create art as a full-time profession?

  • プロのアーティストとして作品を完成するための原動力やクリエイトするためのやインスピレーションは何ですか

During my childhood, I was often praised when drawing something and this made me believe that I possessed a talent for art. I slowly began to realize that I had already withdrawn from the road that ordinary people in Japan follow and I was not meant to be like everyone else. Driven by a different agenda, I made the decision to dedicate my life to art. I will do this till the day I die.

“My motivation to create does not stem from any wish to become rich or successful. Rather, I find myself driven by the will to produce art that can satisfy myself. Even now I think that I am very lucky to be driven by such guidelines and intrinsic motivations… I do not have to search for a purpose to live as it is already deeply rooted within myself.”

幼少期に落書きを褒められた事で自分には才能があると思いましたそれがとんだ勘違いだと気付いた時には退路を絶っていましたので、私は死ぬまでやり抜くという強い意志で続けています。そのように生きる指針を持てた事はとても運が良いと思っています私の漲る創作意欲は自分が満足できる作品を産み出したいという一心であり、サクセストーリーとは別のベクトルにありますが、家族の為に少しでも売れたいという思いがあります。

Homage to Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché. Made with oil and acrylic colors on board by Koushin Yamada.

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

Homage to Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché. Made with oil and acrylic colors on board by Koushin Yamada.

  • How have your roots influenced your work or working style?

  • 耕臣さんの生い立ちや子供の時からの生活環境は、耕臣さんの作品や芸術スタイルにどの様な影響をあたえていると思われますか。

Even though I am not an outlaw, I am strongly aware of the fact that my path of life is seen by many Japanese people as deviant and defying the social order and normative system. This made me want to polish my personality and originality, educate myself and stick to my different way of life, rather than following the crowd. This has also contributed to the uniqueness of my artwork.

I slowly grew a habit of searching for various forms of knowledge and realized that there was so much to be learned. That has gradually led me to see the world from a different angle. The knowledge I have accumulated is projected in my art and various forms of research became a major theme of my pieces. Sometimes this includes things or ideas which seem a little crazy, but by brushing it with my ideas, these are tailored into art.

“My creativity and inspiration is also strongly influenced by another aspect of my upbringing. I always liked and wished to collect various things – such as music CDs, movies, cartoons, toys, clothes and knick-knacks – but my family had neither the money to buy those things for me, nor did we have much space to store these. I thus saved and collected images of all these things I liked on my personal computer so I could look at them anytime. This soon became a habit and I have slowly created a library of all those these articles inside my head.”

You could say these images that trigger my creativity have been imprinted on my mind. When my desire to own these things dissipated, I was left with images that served as an important role of a creative library within my mind.

犯罪歴があるわけではありませんが、世間のはみ出し者であった私はそれを強く自覚していたので、その他大勢に迎合するよりも、個を磨くことにしました。それは作品のオリジナリティに繋がります。また私は同世代の人間が遊んでいる間にひたすら色々な知識を蓄えました。それは癖になり、次第にこの世界が違った角度で見えるようになりました。私が調べて気付いた事は作品のテーマとして投影されます。突拍子も無い事も含まれますが、それをアートに仕立てるのは人生で磨いてきた感性によるものです。私は音楽、映画、漫画、玩具、服、アンテリアなど様々な物が好きで昔はコレクション願望があったのですが、買うお金も置くスペースも無いのでパソコンにイメージのみを保存あるいはひたすら頭の中にイメージを刷り込むという日々を過ごしました。それらは私がクリエイターとなる時、すでに欲しい物ではなくなり、デザインのインスピレーションとして役立つのです。

Origami Paper Toy by Koushin Yamada.

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Origami Paper Toy by Koushin Yamada.

Origami Butterful Owl by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Origami Butterful Owl by Koushin Yamada

  • Would you say you’re an artist as a full-time profession?

  • ご自身のことを、フルタイムの職業としての芸術家とお考えですか。

Whatever I am up to, I am always thinking about art. Having to spend my time on activities such as eating or sleeping, even if it’s inescapable, makes me feel like I am wasting precious time that I could be spending on art.

“Creating art is my full-time job and indulging in other pleasures leaves a feeling of guilt. I feel that life is too short to take time off from art.”

何をしていてもアートの事を考えています。食事や睡眠が鬱陶しく思えるほどです。他のことをしている時は自分に罪悪感を覚えます。満足のいく作品が出来てもいないのに休んでいられるほど人生は長くありません。

  • What’s your creative philosophy? What inspires you to create?

  • 耕臣さんの創作哲学は何ですか。何が、作品を創作される時のインスピレーションとなっているのですか。

Depending on how you see it, everything in this world can be art. I believe that having intellectual curiosity is the most important thing. It helps with discovering and capturing inspiration from everywhere and anything we come across in our daily lives. My own inspiration originates from various sources, such as culture, nature and history. In addition, I also try expressing my passion for supernatural phenomena as well as the world’s mysteries and secrets through my work.

捉え方次第でこの世界の全てはアートになります。知的好奇心を持つことが一番大事だと考えています。知的好奇心があれば日々の生活のあちらこちらでインスピレーションをキャッチできます。ちょっとした発見や思いつきをアートとして発表してみたりもするわけです。

Acrylic on board. Japanese horror x Scifi by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Acrylic on board. Japanese horror x Scifi by Koushin Yamada

The Sun by Koushin Yamada.

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

The Sun by Koushin Yamada

Adventure of the kabuki- the turtle by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Adventure of the kabuki- the turtle by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Adventure of the kabuki- the turtle by Koushin Yamada

  • What do you hope people take away from your art?

  • 耕臣さんの作品を見た人々が、どの様に感して欲しいとお考えですか。

I do not expect, nor hope anything in particular. My belief is that art is supposed to be personal, that people are supposed to be egotistic in regards to what we like or dislike.

“People on the same wavelength as me might appreciate my art, and those who are not might hate it. Even someone who dislikes my work would in some way have been emotionally affected by it. In other words, even though my art contains several messages and ideas, all I hope to do is to spark some kind of emotional or creative reaction within the beholder. It would be great if my art could stimulate someone’s intellectual curiosity.”

私は特に何も期待していません。アートは個人的でエゴイスティックなものだと考えているので、波長が合う人は気に入ってくれるだろうし、そうでない人はそれで終わりです。ただ、嫌われるのは大歓迎です。まるで興味が無ければ腹が立ちもしませんから。結果として誰かの知的好奇心を刺激できたなら作家としては良いことです。

  • Tell us about your latest art piece that you’ve been working on.

  • 現在創作中の作品についても、少し教えて下さい。どの様なプロジェクトに携わっていらっしゃいますか。

My latest work is a painting that will be part of a show – “Exhibition Design Art of Asian Regionality and Climate in Phnom Penh 2018” in Cambodia in mid-September. I will post my work on social media after the event. This particular piece revolves around the Mandala, which was originally a sanctuary in ancient India, and not the 2-dimensional art creation that most might recognize today. The three-dimensional  Mandala dome-construction was similar to a stupa (ie, the grave of Buddha and his disciples) and was created to connect heaven and Earth.

私の最新の作品は、9月中旬にカンボジアで開催されるアジアデザインエキシビジョンに出展されるアクリル画です。それ以降は私のソーシャルメディアに掲載される予定です。この作品は今日知られるマンダラ図を古代インドの聖域であった本来の三次元空間的マンダラとして表現しています。塔を中心に据えたドーム型の建築様式は、仏舎利塔(ストゥーパ)と共通し、天と地を結ぶ宇宙空間を構成します。

“Cosmic Castle”(2018) | Acrylic on paper by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

“Cosmic Castle”(2018) | Acrylic on paper by Koushin Yamada

My latest piece investigates the essence of the Kalachakra Mandala found in esoteric Buddhist teachings which basically associates its origin and source of inspiration to Vimāna. Flying fortresses belonging to the gods, such as the Vimāna, appear over again in the ancient Indian history, and in countless other Asian legends and literature.

“This work interprets architecture, religious elements and history unique to the continent. In addition, ancient wisdom and traditions are immeasurable treasures inherited through time, and this piece connects the dots throughout Asia. By doing so, it also connects cultures, showing that Asian countries, including Japan, in spite of being unique also share a similar history. Being able to portray this avant-garde theme through art inspires a wide range of imagination.”

さらに私の最新の作品はモチーフとなった密教の奥義カーラチャクラ・マンダラの源流を調査し、ヴィマナにその起源とインスピレーションの源流を関連付けています。 ヴィマナのような神々の飛行要塞は、古代インドの神話や数々のアジアの伝説や文献に度々登場します。この作品ではアジア特有の建築様式、宗教観、歴史を私なりに解釈しています。古代の知恵と伝統は、時代を通じて継承された計り知れない財産であり、この作品はアジアの点と点を結ぶ線の要素もあります。アートを通してこの前衛的な解釈を描くことは想像力の拡張を必要とします。

Ultra two by Koushin Yamada.

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

Ultra two by Koushin Yamada.

Cool Grandma by Koushin Yamada

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada_Japan

Cool Grandma by Koushin Yamada

 

To see more of Koushin Yamada’s mesmerizing work, make sure you follow him on Instagram

Rootsandleisure_Koushin Yamada

Butterflied by Koushin Yamada.

Japanese text and translation by Koushin Yamada and Sachiko Imamura D’Souza.

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