Interview/Written by : Johannes Pong
Translation : Jin Tao
Photography : Nick D for precursorprints.com
Special Thanks : Ms. Junko Shimada
Takeo Hanazawa paints and sculpts. East and West, past and present, classical and contemporary all amalgamate into a gloriously neat hybrid in his works. 13th century European pottery, 18th century Japanese composition, characters from traditional Asian mythology (kappa river-sprites; Chinese taoist immortal sennin) as well as modern legends (Chewbacca; Kermit the Frog; Funkadelic pop icons) co-exists cleverly in his pieces. For him, these pose not as opposites in duality, but rather as concepts with underlying similarities. It’s an assessment of his own cultural cache as well as a whimsical homage to what history has wrought. This respectful irreverence to both traditional and contemporary artistry has prompted commissions from musicians like Lily Allen for their own private pleasure, and also collaborations with fashion houses like Alexander McQueen’s latest Tokyo flagship in Aoyama.
Johannes Pong sits down with the artist at Art Basel Hong Kong and has a chat with him in Japanese.
<< Continued after the Chinese below >>
花泽武夫绘画与雕塑作品，将东方与西方，过去与现在，传统与现代这些两极化的东西混合成为了协调的一体。 他的作品包罗万象，13世纪的欧洲瓷艺，18世纪的日本构图，传统的亚洲神话人物（日本河童;中国道教神仙）到现代传奇（巴卡，青蛙柯密特; 疯克德里克流行音乐形象）无不在他的作品中巧妙地找到了共生的办法。对他而言，这些看似二元对立的事物事实上都具有潜在的相似性概念。这不仅是他对自己的文化修养的评估，更是他对于历史异想天开式的致敬。这种无关传统或现代艺术的敬意，使他赢得了来自像Lily Allen这样音乐家的个人委托项目，以及来自时装屋Alexander McQueen的最新东京青山旗舰店这样的合作项目。
Johannes：疯克音乐是你的主要缪斯之一么？能够发现，其实你用了很多的歌曲名称作为你艺术作品的标题，像Lee Perry，Roy Ayers，Mothership。
< < English continues below >>
Johannes: What was your first dream job?
Takeo: I wanted to be a chef because I wanted to eat really good food every day. That was in elementary school. I enjoy good food. I love to eat everything.
J: I just interviewed a Japanese chef last week, and he said he wanted to be an artist when he was a kid.
T: Oh really? LOL.
J: Well a chef is an artist, I mean, they create art daily, art that is edible.
T: But for me, I thought there was no way I could make the same dish over and over again everyday. I’d be really bored. Plus the training is really hard. And then if I get a Michelin star, there would be a lot of pressure to keep it. I got a new dream really quick.
J: So when did you start your career in art?
T: I was Murakami Takashi’s assistant for the whole time I was in university (Tama Art University, BFA). Instead of going to my classes, I went to his studio everyday. Oh and then I did kickboxing.
J: Uh what? Oh yeah, you have quite a ripped body.
T: Well, I’ve always enjoyed watching kickboxing. Then a kickboxing gym opened near where I lived, so I went to check it out. And then I was hooked. I was actually a pro kick-boxer in my late 20s. But I did not paint when I was a kick-boxer. So yeah, I debuted really late as an artist, in my 30s. Actually your job is my dream job. I’d love to travel and eat everywhere for free.
J: I can’t complain being a food and travel writer. But no, you have my dream job! Perhaps I can still debut as an artist.
T: It’s never too late. You have your whole lifetime for creating art.
J: What’s your favourite medium?
T: Painting is the easiest for me. I like using colour.
J: Do you think painting has a correlation with kickboxing?
T: Yeah, I think so. I’m using my mind to move my body. It’s the same as when I’m painting, right? And at that moment, if I get too hotheaded, it won’t be good. You have to keep your cool to do the best work.
J: What’s inspires you?
T: I get inspiration from everything. Art history, music…
J: Is funk a major muse? We’ve noticed that you use a lot of song titles as the titles your paintings, like Lee Perry, Roy Ayers, Mothership.
T: They’re my favourite artists. Sometimes I paint when I listen to music, sometimes I do it in silence. I started with techno and hip-hop, and then I discovered funk. And then i went further back to jazz. I love jazz. I think I was basically going from more contemporary forms of music back to its ancestral roots. It’s the same with art. I like to dig for the roots. You know, the techniques and themes of traditional art from any culture is very beautiful, but I like mixing it up with something contemporary. If you’re just copying the old masters, there’s nothing new being produced. There’s meaning behind it. Isn’t that boring? Like, that series of portraits (Jittoku, Kanzan, Tekkai, Gama) I did — it’s a mash-up of hip-hop and funk musicians with the classic Japanese iconography of sennin (Chinese Taoist hermits and saints) from the past, you know, um, with frogs. I thought that was pretty cool.
J: Do you like frogs.
T: I love frogs. I draw frogs a lot. I’ve collected a lot of weird frog objets.
J: You can get three-legged toads for feng-shui on Cats Street, around Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. That’s a cool hood to walk around.
T: Oh the ones with a coin in their mouths? Yeah, I must buy one here.
J: When was the first time you felt, “Oh this is it!” in regards to your own work?
T: Not yet. I have yet to feel that from a piece of work. Yeah, I can’t die yet.
J: And how did you get commissioned to do an installation at the new McQueen flagship in Aoyama?
T: I was working on a Paul Cézanne exhibition in Fukushima last summer, and met Takao Togashi. We both hit it off, and decided to do something together.
J: I heard that McQueen’s creative director Sarah Burton wanted something unique and very “Japanese” in their Tokyo flagship store.
T: Yeah, so our installation (a chandelier-like structure hanging down the centre of the staircase from the ceiling, with suspended sculptures of gourds, catfish, skulls and shell fragments) is inspired by the 15th century ink painting “Hyōnenzu” (“Gourd and Catfish”, a Japanese national treasure). For centuries, zen monks have been asking and trying to answer the kōan: “Can you catch a catfish with a gourd?” for centuries. In traditional mythology, a giant catfish wriggling under Japan causes earthquakes. If a stone is placed on top of it, the earthquakes will stop. It’s a piece of art for Fukushima. I think it’s really cool.
J: Do you like fashion?
T: I’m not fashionable, but… I like colours.
J: What do you think of fashion houses commissioning artists to do collaborations with them?
T: Yeah, I didn’t think it was that interesting before, but now I think I understand. Fine art is slow to penetrate into the collective consciousness of the people; fashion is violently swift. It’s changing all the time, what, every half a year? It’s terribly pop. It’s screaming: “This is the bag for this season!” and that’s shoved into the collective consciousness of the masses with such force. I do understand its power now.