Yoskay is an artist I’ve admired for years. Not only because of his raw talent but he is always first on the frontlines to use his creativity to help or inspire others. Yoskay Yamamoto’s style is smart blending of a traditional style with a more modern and urban vibe. He has worked with some big named clients over the years and most recently, raised a lot of money for Japan Relief Funds. I had a chance to harass him and he was kind enough to give me a few moments of his time in his busy schedule. We chop it up about his various projects, movies, and his future projects. Read below for the full interview…
How was the transition from Japan to the states in the middle of your teens? Did you have a hard time finding your footing?
Yoskay: The transition from my home country to the new ground was quite a challenge, not just with the language, but daily customs and finding sense of connection among the natives were very difficult for me. I used to be a lot more introverted so in the beginning finding and making friends was tough…and still this day I feel like the odd one out. I’m not completely American, [and] there are times I feel incompetent to describe what i’m going through…. and also I have spent half of my life out in the states [so I don’t] feel like I don’t really fit into Japanese society…..
What specifically about urban culture do you find fascinating?
Yoskay: I feel like the western urban environment is very powerful compare to back home in Toba, and not only the cities are very cultural but at same time it has this certain energy in the atmosphere. Most of my friends back home lead very conservative lives but I have met many people in the states who are living as artists, designers, actors, film makers and musicians. I think they are the ones who create the energy that I find fascinating about the urban culture.
You seem to do quite a few exhibitions a year, what kind of galleries can we expect from you throughout 2011?
Yoskay: I have an upcoming exhibition at Lebasse Projects in Los Angeles in September. I have been working with the owner Beau Basse for about 5 years and this is my fourth solo exhibition with him. That’s my main exhibition this year, and there will be few other group shows that I will be involved in, including a group show in a Japanese American museum in Los Angeles and a group show in Hong Kong.
It’s a shame that when economy sinks, music and art is the first to go. Yet, you recently raised over $1000 for Tsunami relief in Japan. Do you think the perspective of art should change and how else do you feel art can better the world?
Yoskay: It is a very difficult time for us, artists, but a lot of other people are feeling the damage as well. I’m just happy that I could of have helped my home country at least a bit. And i’m so touched to see so many people organizing charity events to aid people who suffered form the quake. Art could be a very powerful thing and I hope we can continue to help the culture grow by learning our responsibilities and the strength we have through art.
I love the tea set! Did you create a set for you to specifically drink from or are these pieces of commercial work more for displaying?
Yoskay: There is a company in the UK called “This is a Limited Edition.” They specialize in affordable limited goods that are designed by artists all around the world. They approached me to make a design last year and I agreed to take [them] up on the offer. I always wanted to make/design something that is functional in the daily bases so this was a perfect opportunity for me.
How different is sculpting versus making art prints? Which do you prefer creatively?
Yoskay: It is difficult to say….. they both do have different enjoyments about the process. But I think sculptures comes bit more natural to me compared to other mediums.
Which is your favorite substance to sculpt from (metal, resin, wood, etc.?) and why?
Yoskay: So far I like working with wood. Carving is a very unforgiven method and if you carve to much you can add the mass back on to it like a clay…so it’s bit more challenging than clay but I really enjoy the process.
Could you touch a bit on the ‘Inskay’ persona and what it means?
Yoskay: [Laughs] That’s kind of an inside joke…
My name Yoskay (originally Yosuke) is spelled with two kanji symbols, and the kanji for yo means the sun, sun light, or positive energy…and it means the opposite of yo, negative, shadow, and dark. The two symbols are like yin and yang. I don’t know if this is because i’m a Gemini, but I do have a completely opposite side of me especially when i’m intoxicated…. so as a joke we started to say that my bad/embarrassing behavior was caused by Inskay.
Have any favorite Asian films or anime?
Yoskay: I think Miyazaki is a great film maker, also Satoshin Kon’s films are very powerful. Tekkonkinkreet and Akira are also on my top list. I have a lot more but the list goes on and on and on…