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.’
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! [Japanese text and translation by Koushin Yamada and Sachiko Imamura D’Souza.]
Konichiwa Koushin San! Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and your background.
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.”
Introduce us to your work. What got you started as an artist?
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.
Origami Work by Koushin Yamada.
What is your motivation and inspiration to create art as a full-time profession?
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.”
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?
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.
Origami Paper Toy by Koushin Yamada.
Origami Butterful Owl by Koushin Yamada
Would you say you’re an artist as a full-time profession?
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.”
What’s your creative philosophy? What inspires you to create?
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.
Acrylic on board. Japanese horror x Scifi by Koushin Yamada
The Sun by Koushin Yamada.
Adventure of the kabuki- the turtle by Koushin Yamada
What do you hope people take away from your art?
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.”
Tell us about your latest art piece that you’ve been working on.
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.
“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.”
Ultra two by Koushin Yamada.
Cool Grandma by Koushin Yamada
To see more of Koushin Yamada’s mesmerizing work, make sure you follow him on Instagram
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