Haroshi makes his art pieces recycling old used skateboards. His creations are born through styles such as wooden mosaic, dots, and pixels; where each element, either cut out in different shapes or kept in their original form, are connected in different styles, and shaven into the form of the final art piece. Haroshi became infatuated with skateboarding in his early teens, and is still a passionate skater at present. He knows thoroughly all the parts of the skateboard deck, such as the shape, concave, truck, and wheels. By coincidence, this creative style of his is similar to the way traditional wooden Japanese Great Buddhas are built. 90% of Buddha statues in Japan are carved from wood, and built using the method of wooden mosaic; in order to save expense of materials, and also to minimize the weight of the statue. I took this opportunity to sit with Haroshi and pick his brain. Read below for the full interview…
You are obsessed with skateboarding but not in a way most people are. What is it about the general aesthetics of a skateboard that appeals to you?
Haroshi: For example, when skateboards are broken, or when blood is coming out from those “injured”, because don’t clothes stuck with blood look cool [laughs]? But all skaters realize it and can think of it being terrific, so I’m not special. I only gathered that and expressed it into my works.
I am aware that each brand has its own shape and that not all skateboard are alike. Which kinds of skateboards do you generally try to avoid when being creative?
Haroshi: I obviously can’t use those skateboards [that are] completely drenched by rain with all wood layers leavened inside. They’re rotten. Apart from those, I use every shape of skateboards.
What is your process for actualizing each piece?
Haroshi: Generally I come out with the design, [and] make samples. I make a block with skateboards and then carve it. That’s what it’s pretty much all about.
Would you consider yourself a unique artist in your environment? Or does Tokyo offer a lot of artists that deal in unorthodox mediums?
Haroshi: Around me there isn’t anyone making stuff out of skateboards. We are the first one to get to this until now, at least that’s what I think. But now all around the world there might be a lot of people. I receive e-mails from many people that are trying to do something with skateboards and I also look forward to see what they are doing! In Japan, we have a culture about working and recycling stuff before throwing them away and also in little countries resources are limited. I think that’s why there are many people that re-use things [before being] thrown away.
Last year you had your debut solo exhibition in the United States and first solo gallery show outside of Japan. The show dealt with your interpretation of New York. What were some of your first impression of the West?
Haroshi: I think that the show in New York itself was more an approach to fine art. The show in L.A. was organized appositely for skaters, it was a real street-style event, and completely another thing. It was just a warehouse. It was so exciting to exhibit my works in a warehouse. In New York there was no alcohol and it was a peaceful opening, but in LA there were free drinks, there were also live music, and skaters doing ollies over my work; many people came. But skaters have too much power, after everything was over everyone seemed lobotomized. It seemed like the storm had finally passed away.
Now that you are in your 30’s, how has your work differed from your late 20’s?
Haroshi: It’s not about changing from my 20’s to my 30’s, it’s about changing every day! There are no changes from 20’s to 30’s. I probably haven’t changed since my 10’s. Probably I will keep liking what I do like until I die.
Do you have any favorite Asian movie or Anime?
Haroshi: I really like anime by Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. Oldboy was terrific!
In the U.S. skateboarding has become increasingly popular. Was Japan big on it when you were a teen? So, what did your parents think, of you becoming a skateboarder?
Haroshi: When I was younger skateboard was for rogues. That’s why now when parents go to places where kids usually skate, it was unbelievable at that time. It felt like it wasn’t something that anyone could start so freely. My parents just thought it was good that I did something with all my strength, maybe?
Lastly, you found a unique niche for you to make your mark in the creative world. What advice would you give to a struggling artist trying to find their way?
Haroshi: I think that everyone has their own special skills. My special skills were skateboarding and being able of creating stuff. I just mixed these. At first I was being laughed at. That stuff won’t sell at all, and has no meaning, they said. But now it’s different because I kept going on with that. When I started this work I decided that I would continue for 10 years, even if I couldn’t sell, even if it was going to be tough. Even if it goes in the wrong way, 10 years of going on giving it a try is not a waste of time. While keep trying mistakes and pointless things will be brushed up and become simple. The most important thing is to believe in what you like, and in any case keep going. I want to go on making my works that can be of impact for people that are making things.
Want to keep tabs on Haroshi’s work? Visit his official website below:
Photography Credit: Brandon Shigeta