Interweaving Clarity and Ambiguity in Reality | Kisho Kakutani Interview


Kisho Kakutani 《Frosted Window #79》 2024, 130.3 × 162.0 cm, acrylic on canvas

A view of a lucid panorama interrupted abruptly by a faint overlay. This is the style of Kisho Kakutani, an artist who has garnered attention for his unique expressions that combine clarity and ambiguity. He is holding his first exhibition at the Whitestone Ginza New Gallery, and we interviewed him about his creative process. In our interview, Kakutani shares insights into his creative process, delving into the core question: "What is reality, and where does it exist?"

The torrent in seconds

ー Tell us about the themes and inspiration behind your artworks.

Kakutani: I began painting from a desire to create artworks in which everyone can feel a sense of reality. I came up with a technique that leaves the interpretation to the viewer by depicting scenery in a way that is difficult to see clearly. By applying a metaphorical 'filter' to the scene, my aim is to encourage viewers to engage with their own memories and perspectives, allowing them to perceive the scene as they wish.

For my 'Frosted Window' and 'Curtain' series, inspired by the blurred views seen through frosted glass windows, as the titles suggest. The obscured elements are not intended to replicate frosted glass, but rather represent a form of 'noise' that interrupts the view. To me, this noise acts as a conduit connecting the artwork to both the viewer and myself, while also serving as a protective barrier preventing them from blending together.

At the artist's studio

ー What kind of elements or approach do you focus on when creating artworks?

Kakutani: What is important to me is fortuitousness, and the actual time I spend engaging with the artwork.

I frequently utilize photos captured with my smartphone as motifs for my paintings. However, I don't deliberately select these photos with the intention of directly depicting them in my artwork. Instead, they are simply snapshots of my daily life, taken out of habit to document moments. When reviewing my daily photos, I'm drawn to those where my memory of the moment is hazy, and I can't recall why I captured the image in the first place.

I begin by painting the blurry sections of the artwork, using the photo I've chosen as a reference. Then, I carefully draw out the detailed parts, aligning them with the natural expressions created by the paint's bleeding. This process allows me to seamlessly connect the two areas together. The fluid and ever-changing nature of the paint bleeds often leads to unexpected results, so I make a conscious effort to unify the entire piece into a cohesive world as I work on it.

Kisho Kakutani 《Frosted Window #79》 2024, 130.3 × 162.0 cm, acrylic on canvas

ー What are the ideas behind the exhibition's key visual, "Frosted Window #79"?

Kakutani: The idea behind "Frosted Window #79" and all my other paintings in this exhibition is the same. From the outset, these series of artworks were meant to be interpreted by the viewers themselves. If they are able to see the scenery the way they want to, then that is all I can hope for.

I selected this painting as the main visual because the mountains and sky depicted are elements familiar to everyone, having been observed by nearly everyone at least once in their lives. When creating landscapes, I always prioritize their universality and how readily they can be embraced by viewers. This consideration holds particular significance for this exhibition, as I anticipate that many attendees will be encountering my artwork for the first time.

ー What has been the biggest challenge in your art career?

Kakutani: I guess it was my transition from Nihonga to my current style back in my university years. It was during my doctoral program, where I was tasked with describing my own artworks using words, that I often grappled with the question, "What is reality, and where does it exist?" The inception of the "Frosted Window" series stemmed from one of my attempts to answer this question. Each time I conceived a new idea, I promptly translated it into a painting, engaging in a process of trial and error. Interestingly, the paintings that initially felt like failures ultimately guided me toward developing my current style.

Kakutani in his studio

ー How did you go about creating the "Frosted Window" and "Curtain" series?

Kakutani: I soaked a piece of cotton cloth in water and placed it on top of the canvas as I painted to make the paint bleed. I used the titles "Frosted Window" and "Curtain", but these are metaphors for the form and function of the "noise" I express. The coverage of this noise is different in the two series.

In the "Frosted Window" series, the central part of the painting where the main subject lies is obscured. I created it with the image of the viewer entering the world of the painting by passing through the noise. Conversely, in the "Curtain" series, the painting's main character is visible, but its surroundings are obscured. I intended to convey an image of a connected world that expands through the noise and beyond the canvas.

At the artist's studio

A snapshot that is out of focus, a silhouette emerging in the twilight, a hazy landscape shrouded in fog – it is the vagueness enveloped in such scenes that stimulate the senses of the viewer. Their space is the perfect receptacle for projecting our own emotions and experiences, whether it is an ordinary landscape that unconsciously caught your eye as you live your daily life, or a nearly forgotten episode that suddenly comes to mind. The "noise" that appears in Kisho Kakutani's paintings acts as a boundary with others, as well as a light source that illuminates the memories sleeping in the depths of our minds.

"The torrent in seconds", a duo exhibition by Kisho Kakutani and Yudai Takeuchi, will be held at the Whitestone Ginza New Gallery from April 27th to May 25th. Check out the link below for details.

The torrent in seconds

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