T-Files 026: Tomokazu Matsuyama

I met Matzu way back in 2003, at the dream so much 2 group show in Chinatown, NYC. His incredible work was displayed alongside that of Kenji Hirata, James Marshall (DALEK). and Sandro Tchikovani (MISK). The following year, jeffstaple exhibited his work on the walls of The Reed Space, while I was working there. At the time, his work seemed focused primarily on typography, and his distinctive Reluctant Warrior characters, who looked like stressed-out Japanese businessmen. Since then, it seems that Matzu’s profile and his career have only continued to skyrocket, and his art has evolved a lot along the way too. I’ve continued to be a huge fan. I recently got in touch to see if he had the time to answer some of my silly questions, and surprisingly, he did.

Where are you today? New York City.

How long have you been living in NYC now, and how’s it treating you? About 8 years now. It’s always nice to be at the hub of everything.

What are you working on? I just finished a solo show in SF at Frey Norris Gallery. I will be showing works in Hong Kong at Hong Kong international Art Fair. So I’m in production for that at the moment…

What is your favorite recent exhibit/artwork/project? The solo show I just had in SF.

Where have you been finding inspiration lately? From anything and everything, I get so excited to see brilliant works from the past, and new types of art from young artists who deliver unique visions I’ve never seen before, or perhaps just from casual conversation with close friends.

When did you decide to pursue art as a career? Not so sure when, but it wasn’t until I was around 26. Quite late…

Are you formally trained? Yes and no, my bachelor was management, and my graduate program was graphic design. I was never trained to become an artist, or how to paint. What makes my work unique and different is that I was never officially trained so my technique was all self-taught.

Can you talk about the HK and Dubai Art Fairs, and what those experiences were like? Was it your first time in Dubai? It’s really nice to have works exhibited to an audience who never had seen my work, especially when my work is rooted in a cultural base. It’s exciting to see the reaction and how people respond when the place it’s shown has distant connectivity.

It has been amazing seeing your art get more and more recognition, do you have aspirations of taking it anywhere you haven’t been to yet? Yes, of course, that is why I started making sculptures. I know how much a painting can reach, it can say so much but at the end of the day, it’s only in something hung on a wall. I am more interested in extending my vocabulary and speaking more physically. It’s a challenge to build something you’ve never made, or in a scale you’ve never worked under. And in many cases things dont always go as you predicted nor how you wanted to but it’s always a learning process and its important to keep doing new things.

Congratulations on your Medicom Be@rbrick; paintings aside, have you been working on/with any new media like this? Yes, very much, I will have a shoes and jacket release together with this Be@rbrick from NSW (Nike Sports Wear) with the same design. It was a bundle collaboration. I’ve previously relased signature Levi’s Denims, as well as collaboration with Japanese clothing brands like CLS, Cycle, Minotaur, Transport, etc…It’s an important factor for me to do this as an artist, as long as I can output my creativity. Since being Japanese, art in utility has had a great value in Japanese art history, whereas here in the US, it’s the opposite, the more an artist does corporate collaboration it seems they’re degrading their value as a fine art. I think completely differently. I think art applied into objects could still possess artistic value and approach many people…so it’s a exciting challenge for me.

Do you have anything on the horizon for 2010? Yes, there is, though things are still not confirmed to reveal at this time, but I will probably have a busy and creative year…

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5 comments on “T-Files 026: Tomokazu Matsuyama
  1. Matzu is incredible! I share an art studio in the same building as Matzu in Brooklyn. Not only is his artwork AWESOME, he is the coolest and nicest guy! Lots of great things to come from this dude!

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