HIDEYUKI Shoji is a Japanese contemporary artist whose work is currently on display at Debut Contemporary and UKAI Sushi Soho. His artwork often arises from the manipulation of everyday objects through the ideas influenced by those of Martin Heidegger. He was thirsty for knowledge about art when he graduated with an MA in art in Japan, and so decided to come to Britain to develop an understanding of art on an international level. He graduated from the Chelsea College of Art and Design with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 2009.
I feel that I wake influence from both East and West London, in a similar way that both Japanese and Western art has influenced me.
What's the best thing about being an artist?
I believe that through art, I have the ability to influence people’s understanding of the world and reach people beyond borders.
What are some of the major changes you’ve experienced after winning the People’s Choice Award at the Signature Art Awards last summer? Are you living like a rock star in the art world?
I am not like a rock star but I have felt some changes in my life after I won.. Thanks to the award, there are more opportunities to exhibit my work both in and outside the UK. Before, I was seen more like someone who does art in his free time (even my friends had this impression!), but now, I am perceived more as an artist. So the award has provided me with the first step on the stage of the art world.
Why fish? Have they always been your ‘thing’?
No it hasn’t. This was the first time I used fish as a material for my artwork. The main concept of my artwork is to drag down the ‘everyday’ into a visible colour and form through the manipulation of discreet phenomena of everyday life. In terms of my concept, I use some materials, which are trivial, discarded and often overlooked in our busy everyday life. For the ‘Carpe Diem’ series, I chose a fish fillet I bought from the supermarket, because fish is quite an everyday object for me personally – being Japanese!
What type/styles of art do you prefer?
I like art that is clever but simple. I prefer conceptual art but I don’t like anything too complicated. I believe good art should be simple but meaningful – like 3’33” by John Cage. If I pick an artist from today, Martin Creed and Gavin Turk are my favourites.
What would you call your style?
I don’t see myself belonging to any ‘categories’, but I feel that I could relate to some of the Japanese artists who studied abroad and expanded their ideas, bringing in Western philosophy, such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Meiro Koizumi and Tatsuo Majima. They fused Western philosophy and Japanese culture together in their work to portray a unique sense of humour. I think I am on the same line with the new generation of Japanese artists, who have deviated from Japanese artists who are actively in Japan.
Which artist from do you look up to the most?
As I mentioned previously, I have a high regard for John Cage. He is often seen as a musician, but for me he is an artist who uses sound to illustrate his own philosophy. What I most admire about him is that he has created a new method of music composition. He says that his composition, ‘was more like fishing for things that were already there’. For my concept of art, I agree with his opinion 100%. I am also using things that are already there.
Take us through the process of you creating a new artwork.
A recurring theme in my work involves curiosity in and observation of everyday life. To make the everyday apparent, my work makes an absurd alteration to an object before putting it back into an everyday life situation.
My artworks are made using ordinary materials, suggesting alternative points of view within a normal social situation. Through everyday trivial objects, such as fish, fruits, chewing gum or clothing, I attempt to generate surprises or simply establish a unique narrative by exploiting their unnoticed and overlooked elements within the complexities of everyday life.
As I continue further to develop unconventional perspectives on the everyday objects, I have now begun to incorporate and exercise my interests in the performance arts incorporated with my sculptures. I actively play around with social structures through my sculptures to highlight out-of-the-ordinary situations, often amusing, which would otherwise be seen as the mere everyday.
Did you ever feel like giving up?
I have never thought about it.
What is the message behind your ‘Carpe Diem’ series?
In the ‘Carpe Diem’ series, I exploit fish fillets from everyday life to propose alternative meanings and narratives through symbolism. The image of the fish on top of the gold leaf background signifies the relationship between life and death and their proximity, as well as their connection with our everyday lives. I employ gold colour in background to preserve their precious moment of life in eternity.
What goes through your mind when people interpret your artwork horrifically wrong, or differently?
I really don’t mind at all. Instead, I am interested in alternative interpretations that audiences may come up with, because I think art has many dimensions, in the same way that people’s lives have many dimensions. I believe that alternative interpretations actually add value to my work.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
I think the most important thing is to have determination. For most people, being an artist is not easy, both mentally and financially. Without strength of mind to be an artist, art will remain just a dream.
You’ve been living in London for quite some time now. During those years, have you become a Londoner?
I don’t think so. I feel more like an international artist. I am a Japanese living in London, but my work is exhibited, not only in the UK, but also in Germany and Canada, and I hope my work will be shown in other countries as well in the future.
Which London neighbourhood’s style do you most identify with?
I used to live in East London, so I am familiar with Shoreditch and I like the vibrant atmosphere there. I currently work at the ACVA Studio in Hammersmith, and also exhibit my work in Notting Hill, so I feel closer to West London at the moment. However, I feel that I wake influence from both East and West London, in a similar way that both Japanese and Western art has influenced me.
Photos by Jens Marott.
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