A professional snowboarder before he turned his attention to art, Tomokazu 'Matsu' Matsuyama uses an infusion of bright acrylic hues, pop culture references and traditional Japanese iconography to interpret his vision of society: colourful, interesting and a little abstract.
Raised between Japan and the US, Matsu presents compositions influenced by his experiences growing up, combined with the years he spent in California, and New York, where he’s currently based. Using a centuries-old Ukiyo-e woodblock style, Matsu displays his fascination with art history and colour through opposing aesthetics of new and old, East and West.
In Hong Kong for his first solo exhibition, Matsu chats with us about his inspirations and what he can't live without.
Talk us through your project with the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation.
As a new foundation, HOCA is prominent within the realm of emerging art. The challenge of this project and exhibition is to deliver fresh insights while engaging people, showing them how contemporary art can be accessible to everyone.
Your past works have been influenced by Edo and Meiji Japanese art, French Renaissance paintings and pop culture--what inspires you right now?
Ceramics, previously viewed as just artisan craft, are being incorporated more into Western fine art and becoming a new medium in contemporary art. It has such a long history in Asian cultures.
Which everyday object best represents you as an artist?
Social media. I like to engage and be engaged. Artists have become very accessible, and communicate in multiple ways besides what we create.
What is one item that you can’t live without as an artist?
My iPhone 7.
What are subjects that you find most riveting and why?
I am interested in subjects that are accessible to everyone, yet still academic and historical. Art can easily be isolating, and I hate this aspect of art. Artists’ work is to engage the public at large.
What about architecture?
I enjoy architecture: scale is an important part of my work. In Hong Kong, I was fascinated by Man Mo Temple and the energy it has in the city centre, in the middle of Hollywood Road. I remember going there to pray.
Where do you go to unwind?
I live in New York, one of the most vibrant yet chaotic cities in the world. In addition, most of my projects happen in big cities that are cultural hubs. So I appreciate time away from the chaos, like going to islands and beaches, particularly Hawaii.
In your view, what has been your best piece of work so far?
It's a bit of a stereotype, to say “the next piece is the best piece,” but I think I am a bit too young to define what my best work is yet.
What pieces of art decorate your house?
Anything other than mine, I can’t live with my own work, after spending months creating it. I need some time for others, so I can still appreciate art.
What do you want people to take away with them after seeing a piece you’ve created?
The idea behind my work is to create a lens through which the viewer can study the hybrid condition of our culture. I want my work to be both domestic and foreign so that the viewer feels connected yet distant at the same time.
Tomokazu Matsuyama's exhibition Oh Magic Night will be on display March 19 to April 9 at Shop B104 - Shop 305, The Pulse, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
See also: Is The Digital Age Killing Art?