Interview: Yasuko Okamoto
Luca Curci talks with Yasuko Okamoto, honourable mention of ITSLIQUID International Contest – 11th Edition.
Yasuko Okamoto is one of the honourable mention of the 11th ITSLIQUID International Contest. “I am a Japanese abstract painter who has had the opportunity to travel, study, live, and exhibit in Taipei, Dakar, Paris, and Portland. All these different cultures are reflected in my work. At the core, you will find traditional Japanese colors influenced by the Kimonos I saw my grandma wear every day in my childhood. My inspiration and curiosity are in the Occidental Contemporary Artists. I welcome you to enjoy and explore my art world”.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Yasuko Okamoto – Art is my best friend who consoles me, encourages me, and teaches me what life is like.
LC – What are you currently working on?
YO – I am painting several big-sized pieces to prepare for a contemporary art show “Sm’art” in Aix-en-Provence, South France where I have been living since last summer. I have recently collaborated with a Taiwanese contemporary musician and composer, Mr. Lin Yu Tong in Taipei. The music he composed inspired me to create abstract paintings, and he composed another music inspired by the works I created. I hope I can do that kind of collaboration with the artists of different art fields here in France.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
YO – I took a basic art course in Paris only for a year about 20 years ago. That is all I learned at art school for my life. I am a self-taught artist. After, I married to Taiwanese diplomat I have lived in many different countries such as Senegal, France, Taiwan, and Italy. While I was occupied with my job, taking care of two children, I never forgave working on the painting. I finally started to be fully engaged in creating abstract paintings in 2013. At that time I was in Paris for the 3rd time stay, where I had a lot of chances to appreciate art in museums or galleries. I also discovered there Japanese traditional artists such as Hokusai, or Kuniyoshi whose works inspired me a lot and made me think of my identity as a Japanese. Working on my art creation, I realized I am deeply influenced by Japanese traditional colors such as my grandma’s Kimono or the old Japanese-style house where I spent my youth in the 1970s. I didn’t care about the Japanese traditional aesthetic until I began to work on abstraction. At the same time, I was fascinated with the colors and styles of European painters such as Matisse or Braque, and of course, the magnificent landscape in Paris.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
YO – We have many critical issues such as global warming, Covid-19, and so on. Contemporary art can initiate us to take any action or help us to focus on these issues from different points of view. I saw a contemporary exhibition last year at Taipei City Museum. The show was all about environmental issues. Artists from all over the world exhibited their artworks in various ways like video, documents, or installation. I got impressed to see how powerful art is and how much artists can move us and teach us in such interesting ways. I have recently participated in an event called “Women Beyond Border”, organized world-widely, in which only women exhibited their works. I presented a story of my mother who lives in Japan, never worked outside, being a housewife for her life. I hope I will have another opportunity to treat this gender issue.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
YO – I am especially inspired by visiting art exhibitions. The solo exhibition of Chiharu Shiota, a Japanese contemporary artist living in Germany, in Taipei last year gave me a sensational feeling. I have been thinking about what it means to be a contemporary artist for a while after visiting her show. I also never forget the retrospective exhibition of Leonard Da Vinci in Florence several years ago. His sensitive lines gave me chills! Such experiences surely influenced my creation. In addition, I have to admit how lucky I am to have lived in many different places. Every country gave me a different inspiration. I believe that as an artist receiving inspiration from outside is as important as working on paintings inside the atelier.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artwork?
YO – Creating abstract artwork is not like solving mathematic problems. I mean I will never find an answer. Abstract images are full of ambiguity, indirect expressions, or metaphors. This is similar to writing a poem. When I finish working on a piece, I ask myself if it is poetic enough. It is not an easy process as I don’t have any correct answers on what the right way to follow is, but that is why making art is such fun. I will be happy to see my art has some resonance with people who visit my exhibitions, and they will enjoy it with their imagination.