If the mix between modernity and tradition is particularly constant in Japan, local artists manage each time to renew our gaze on this open and accepted cohabitation in the archipelago. Hyottoko Suzuki is one of those Japanese painters with unique talent and sensitivity. Through her dreamlike works, she renews the way we approach this phenomenon and, in a certain way, rediscover it and understand it always a little better. Excluded for the readers of Mr Japanization, she tells you about her approach and her singular relationship to the land of the Rising Sun. Discovery of a tangy universe.
Very unfortunate would be the one who thinks he has understood everything about the temporal dichotomy of Japan! This very particular double energy, if it is studied in a thousand and one ways and has already been analyzed many times, also knows how to reveal itself under inexhaustible artistic features, each time more instructive. Among them is the art of the painter Hyottoko Suzuki, whom we had the chance to meet by chance in a gallery in Tokyo.
This Japanese artist approaches the bipolar dimension of her country in a personal way, rich in its own nuances. The modernity of Japan appears mainly in the form of strange intrusions of technologies in classic decorations of old prints. Electronics, mainly household appliances, blend into historic landscapes with a traditional style. And vice versa: symbols of ancestral Japanese culture are invited into our 21st century. But the artist was not satisfied with mixing the two eras …
His talent is embodied above all, and fully, in the double choice of offering his paintings a phantasmagorical dimension, carried by a tangy palette, and to add an offbeat and playful spirit, vibrant with freedom, where imbrications and destructurations are almost like collage. Its characters and the situations in which Hyottoko Suzuki places them will certainly tell you stories that breathe Japan. As for his, she presents her to us herself, in all simplicity, between four eyes.
Mr Japanization: Hello Hyottoko-san. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hyottoko-san: Hello. I am Hyottoko Suzuki, a Japanese painter. I also work as an illustrator. I have liked to draw since I was a child. But my current painting style has been greatly influenced by traditional Japanese paintings such as Japanese picture scrolls or ukiyo-e [ndlr : l’ukiyo-e est un mouvement artistique populaire et narratif de l’époque d’Edo, sous forme d’estampes gravées]. After graduating from art school, I definitely followed that inspiration by adding my own look to it.
Mr Japanization: What is that look that defines you?
Hyottoko-san: My paintings are composed in such a way that different elements like natural objects and household appliances, modern and ancient, be merged. Thanks to this mixture, I try to paint stories, with humor, and through satire. I especially like large paintings, because I feel like I can really relate something to them. But whatever the size, I always do it with flashy colors, which I find very expressive.
Mr Japanization: Where do you get the inspiration that feeds your imagination?
Hyottoko-san: I am inspired for my paintings music that I listen to, festivals, household appliances and other everyday objects that are familiar to me and that surround me directly.
This cohabitation which surrounds me and stimulates me is in fact an omnipresent reality in my country, but also in Asia. I find this state – where contrary things mingle with the chaos of existence – has a very interesting and attractive force. The limit to this situation is however that it is complicated to coordinate: its balance is fragile.
Mr Japanization: You seem to have a very good relationship with your country, can you tell us about it?
Hyottoko-san: This is the country where I was born and I am very influenced by this culture. As a follower of ancient Japanese philosophy, I really like the idea that there is a precious love to be nurtured for the little things and the things that disappear fleetingly. But peer pressure is high in Japan, and that I don’t think is a good thing.
Mr Japanization: What does one of your classic days look like?
Hyottoko-san: In fact, most days I wake up late in the morning. I draw around noon, then take a lunch break on the way, and start drawing again until midnight. When I draw, I always play my favorite music or radio program in the background.
Mr Japanization: You who paint the meeting of eras, what is your favorite object? Does it rather belong to the present or to the past?
Hyottoko-san: I find it amazing that there are so many modern power tools and products that have both a design and a function of their own. But I don’t particularly distinguish them. My favorite things in Japan are actually old things and come from a festival called Kagura.
Kagura is a very rustic party in which the inhabitants of the village dance at night to entertain the earth god in the mountains. The dancing, the costumes, the masks and the music that appear in the Kagura are really very beautiful. But above all, I believe that I am impressed by the energy which overflows from this festival and which therefore inhabit the accessories.
Mr Japanization: What are your next projects?
Hyottoko-san: A personal exhibition will be held at the store of the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi for approximately two weeks from the end of July. This solo exhibition will present the greatest new paintings I have ever drawn!
We wish Hyottoko-san a beautiful exhibition and warmly thank her for this intimate interview with Mr Japanization.
Follow his creations on Instagram or on its site.
Cover photo credit @HyottokoSuzuki “The girl being washed” acrylic painting 2018 家電 図 洗 わ れ る 女 ア ク リ ル 画 S12 号 2018 年 個人 蔵