Artist Interviews 2022
By Johnny Otto
You were born in London but grew up in Japan and New York, is that right? How did those two different cultures inspire your art?
I grew up in Connecticut, just outside of NYC. I think moving to the states when I was 6 from Tokyo set me off kilter in a way, so I always saw things a bit differently The imagery I have from Tokyo is very vivid, full of colors, temples, crowded streets and things cluttered together. Maybe my interest in graffiti like imagery had its beginnings then. living near NYC until I was 18 gave me access to museums and what was happening in the art world. Andy Warhol was living in NYC when I was in High school. i remember the stir his work created, how pop art shook up the art world.
The Art Students League in NYC is known for having some of the best teachers in the country. What was it like studying there and who did you get to study with?
When I went to the art students league it was a shadow of what it had been in the days when Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock were there. I think it has revived now but back then things seemed to be falling apart and it was a very unstructured place, I remember going and basically working on my own in life drawing classes.
You art work is a mess and I mean that in the best possible way. It looks like graffiti mixed with expressionism. Who would you blame for your you style? Who are your influences?
That’s so funny and I love that and it describes my work well. When I went off to college my hero was Willem De Kooning. i loved his women series and his loose painting style . And lots of other painters have influenced me like Susan Rothenberg for her amazing figurative abstractions and Antoni Tapies, the Spanish painter, for his use of unorthodox materials and his bold forms. But along the way influences like Basquiat , Haring, Banksy and Warhol entered the work. And I find so much inspiration in a wall that has been shored up over time, reflecting history and decay and covered with graffiti that has been painted over and repainted. Often the images and texts are scrawled in a messy, hasty way that speak to me about an urgency to say something about what’s going on.
You've had solo shows in New York, San Francisco and New Mexico, all different vibes. As an Artist how did those cities influence your work?
I've lived in New Mexico for most of my life now and the landscape here is very much a part of my work. The expanse of the land and sky give me room to breath and stretch. i think the rawness and dirty messy qualities in my paintings reflect the earth around me. And I like that Albuquerque is an unfinished place, its still undeveloped and I find that conducive to painting. But Traveling to the two coasts for shows has been key for my work, it has connected me to urban street life that is a big part of my inspiration.
What was the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico like. How long did you study there? How was the life style and art different from say living in big city like New York?
San Miguel de Allende is a really special place. I was there for one semester but it definitely imprinted in me a love for Mexico. The architecture , food and the magical, dreamlike culture there with connections to the spirit world plays a part in my work.
Any shows coming up?
I’ve always dreamt of showing in Los Angeles. Every time I visit the city I feel its where I belong and Ive found my tribe.
Any artists you've love to collaborate with?
It would be a dream to collaborate with mark Bradford. not sure where my work would come into it but the layers, colors and sheer monumental size of his work sends my heart soaring.
Any other creative or non-creative passions that make you happy?
Well, besides the usual, spending time with family, friends and dogs, when Im not painting i love rock climbing. it feeds me in a different way.