Keita Morimoto is an artist, born and raised in Osaka, Japan. He moved to Canada in 2006, currently working in Toronto. He is a simple man who enjoys Summer and of course art. Keita was kind enough to lend me a few moments of his time so I could pick the brain of yet another artist from Canada. We talk about formal education, art, films, and cultural ideology! Read below for the full interview…
I notice a lot of the subjects of your paintings have a somber look, almost a calmness about them, that washes over their faces. Why not draw angry, happy, or excited? What type of feeling are you trying to evoke from your audience?
Keita: I’ve always preferred ambiguous expressions which I personally more attractive as well as mysterious. I also find strong expressions to be too distracting for the viewer to navigate through the whole image. Mostly, I create images as an attempt for myself or any viewer to have certain emotional experiences, disturbance, uneasiness, confusion and etc. I like images that challenge me visually and emotionally.
Have you ever participated in a live figure drawing session? Do you feel it would be more challenging painting real life rather then from your mind or reference photos?
Keita: I have taken figurative drawing and painting classes and agree that it is more challenging but also beneficial. I make as many studies as possible from life so I can create better forms and flesh even when I’m painting from imagination or photographs. In my junior year of school, I used to think that painting from life is more difficult. But now, I find it so much easier to achieve a real sense of color, dimension and space.
So what brought you from Japan to Canada? It seems many artists I interview have migrated to that Country.
When I was in a Japanese high school, I really wanted to experience and learn other cultures. I didn’t really have a preference so I came to Canada which seemed like a safe place to live.
You are knee deep in your studies and I was wondering how you intended to shift cultural ideology, or perhaps make your creative work more collective or combative in the upcoming semester? Or am I way off the mark?
Keita: For my thesis body of work, I do have a general theme of “cultural hybridity”. As such, I am attempting to merge different cultural aesthetic styles that have their own ways of perceiving reality. This theme is inspired by my own experience of moving to another country. I’ve become strongly attracted to the western tradition of painting and its history since I moved to Canada. While painting in the western traditional fashion over the past few years, my old devotion to Japanese anime, manga and game cultures gradually brought me back to re-think about my cultural origin. My next step is to include more specific motifs from different subcultures in the North America or Japan.
How is your experience in the U.S., have you found it to be beneficial, for example, spending time in a place like California? Does a change in atmosphere inspire your creations?
Keita: I have actually never been to California but I have gone to New Mexico to take a workshop from an American painter, David Leffel. This was probably the best learning experience I’ve ever had in my entire painting education. I do find traveling very inspiring and refreshing when I’m frustrated with my paintings, though even taking a short walk helps.
Do you have any favorite Asian Films or Anime?
Keita: My all-time favorite films are all by Hayao Miyazaki, especially Princess of Mononoke and Spirited Away. I love how he can communicate emotions through the subtlety in human expressions, colors, sounds and compositions without having any dialogues. His films are one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to pursue painting.
What is the greatest takeaway you have received from your Painting Studio classes and would you recommend formal education to a creative to become more well-rounded?
Keita: I personally think that formal education is very significant, especially to myself, in order to achieve what I visualize in my head. Learning about drawing, colors, compositions, or even paint application has all greatly helped me to get closer to what’s in my head.
However, I do believe that there are many different ways to approach image-making so I try not to fall into any sort of artistic dogmas, though I also try to learn as much as possible from painters I admire.
I was pleased to know we both know Kent Williams and Yuta Onoda, and they seem to be a source of inspiration for your work. Can you talk a little about the artists and movements that particularly affected you?
Keita: I’ve come across works of Kent Williams and Yuta Onoda through my friends. I’ve actually hung out with Yuta in Toronto a couple of times, a very nice person. It’s inspiring to know that there are artists from Japan working in the same city.
There are a number of artists who made big influence on my work. From history of art, I’m in love with works by Rembrandt, Giorgio Morandi, Euan Uglow, Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. As for contemporary artists, I admire works of Yoshitomo Nara, Will Cotton, Lisa Yuskavage and Antonio Lopez Garcia.
Where does sketching fall in your process? When you sit down to draw is the goal the piece itself or is it a step in a longer painting process? What do you hope to learn from sketching when you sit down to create one?
Keita: Sketching has been like a hobby for me and also a nice break from painting, unless I’m actually making a sketch for a painting. I really enjoy sketching which seems to allow all my imaginations and thoughts to come out on the paper without thinking too much. It has always enriched my imagination and vision for painting.
2011 was a busy year for you, can you spill the beans on any 2012 shows, books, paintings, thesis works?
Keita: One of my paintings, “Maze II”, was accepted into Spectrum 18 that has been published in December, 2011. Also, my graduation show will be held in this coming May at OCAD University, Toronto, which I’m really excited about.
Visit the below link to to vote online to see this artist get a exhibit booth at SCOPE New York.