Japanese artist Yoshitoshi Kanemaki’s work is often astonishing, made by hand and often extraordinarily surreal it begins as one of the most familiar materials, wood.
To change and transform is at the core of the artist’s way of working, and Kanemaki’s creativity began as child immersed in the enthralling process of origami.
Yoshitoshi Kanemaki is modest and insists that he has “basic knowledge and technical skills as a wooden sculptor.” Nevertheless, he acknowledges that there exists a certain responsiveness that allows his work to be successful. This responsiveness comes from a visualization of the world as he sees it, respond to delicacy of feeling, subtleties of characters, the details, and appearances of people in daily life.
Today, much of Kanemaki’s wooden sculpture echoes a Proserpina like transformation, a sensation the artist describes as a wavering distortion.
There is in all of Kanemaki’s work a sense of power and dynamism, functioning as a place between the surreal or mystical and the real world. This is connected to a distinctive Japanese character reflecting Buddhist visual arts traditions as well as more contemporary graphic style such as manga and the art of animation. n fact, for the most part Kanemaki’ influences are Japanese and include cycles of life and death in Osamu Tezuka’s Fire and Bird series, Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam as well as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
While the artist studied carving at Tama Art University, he has continued to refine his technique, and chose wood for its similarities between the human body, noting the similarities in the weathering and disease, the need for water and nutrients to survive. Kanemaki has taken inspiration from the historic tradition of wood materials as reflected in Japanese architecture and musical instruments as well.
Rosa: What is your artistic and technical process for making sculpture?
Yoshitoshi Kanemaki: My production process is close to traditional techniques, but I also add in my own ways of carving and painting. However, I base my methods on Buddhist sculpture technique of Ichiboku Zukuri (一木造).
RB: There are many motifs of multiple selves, different realms of understanding and existence, why is this an important theme?
YK: We contemporary humans all live with the feeling of vague anxiety. What makes us feel this anxiety, is our direction moving forward right? This indecision and anxiety is ambivalence, which is a concept for my work. I observe closely the qualities of the undecided and wavering and imbue the sculptures with these sensations.
RB: Do you have any favorite books or films that inspire you?
YK: My heart was touched by the film Black Swan and Session recently. The expressive quality and the way both films went beyond a certain line – this is a place that I am longing to go to as an artist.
And indeed, this place of infinite change, hybridity, a sense of moving distortion, light playing across the body, elemental change is made magic in Yoshiro Kanemaki’s unique sculpture. The beauty of his work speaks for itself, an object earthly and real, yet resplendently awash in the sense of strange dreams, constant change, an elusive quality of time.
There is in all of Kanemaki’s work a sense of power and dynamism, functioning as a place between the surreal or mystical and the real world. This is connected to a distinctive Japanese character reflecting Buddhist visual arts traditions as well as more contemporary graphic style such as manga and the art of animation. In works like Momento Mori, the artist uses traditional Japanese wood carving techniques to depict his interpretation of this historically western motif. The result is extraordinary.