Now Reports

Interview with Sumi-e Artist Yuki Nishimoto

Yuki Nishimoto, a rising star in the world of sumi-e ink painting, drew in 45,000 visitors for his first solo exhibition in Fukuoka last year. This year, as part of his nationwide exhibition, 80 of his awe-inspiring works are on display in Kitakyushu, including 20 new pieces of women in color and some framed in golden folding screens. Nishimoto combines bold, daring brush strokes with delicate, intricate touches to create dynamic depictions that cover everything from more traditional subject matters such as dragons and samurai warriors, to portrayals of contemporary figures including athletes and musicians.

Fukuoka Now met up with Nishimoto just before his exhibition in Kitakyushu opened. Information on the exhibit follows. Don’t miss this inspiring exhibition by a local rising star.

It’s been almost two years since the Ryu no Kiseki exhibition in Fukuoka. Does it seem like a long time?
No, two years ago feels like yesterday. Since then, I’ve worked on art for clients and produced different editions of the Ryu no Kiseki. This series of exhibitions has become an important marker of time, especially with the return back to Fukuoka (Kitakyushu). I feel some pressure as for some, this will be their second viewing, but I feel I have progressed. I hope that’s noticed!

The first exhibition attracted 45,000 visitors. That surprised everyone. Even if the count were half, I would have been pleased. Numbers aside, I was happy to receive encouraging comments and feedback. But with that success came pressure and the realization that projects of that scale require a team effort and I need to think more about staffing and other things. So, yes, these two years have brought significant change.

I hear you’re using colors in your art more often now?
Right, I have more pieces using colors since my exhibition in Kagoshima. Partly because I received encouraging feedback about them, and also because I’ve entered my thirties and a new stage in life. In my twenties, I devoted myself to sumi-e, but now I’m more open to other genres, including oil painting and photography. Now at 31, I’ve managed to create a more relaxed environment for imagining and creating. Before, I was very protective of sumi-e and resisted adding new elements. But that obsession ended after these exhibitions. Currently, I want to try anything that comes to mind. I’m proactively thinking about how to broaden my work – taking this analog art, sumi-e – and modernizing it. The colored pieces are a part of that. So far, the response has been excellent. I feel positive about increasing the use of color and making art on alternative materials besides washi papers.

Tell us about your daily routine?
Nothing special. People seem to think I live a stoic life, but I don’t. I don’t spend too much time drawing. I have a fixed pace of four to five hours daily on drawing, which results in dozens of works per month. I do some research on my computer at night to get inspiration, and I’m always scribbling notes in my sketchbook. If I didn’t, I’d surely forget them by the next morning, especially after drinking.

I use my atelier in Fukui Prefecture for drawing large pieces. When I’m in Fukuoka, I routinely go to Tenjin, grab some drinks, and spend time drumming up new ideas. Hmmm, otherwise, I do house chores at home, go out for a run, have some drinks, and go to sleep. That’s pretty much it! Jogging is a recent addition to my routine. It helps me clear up my thoughts.

You meet a lot of interesting people. Who inspires you now?
Every place I visit and every person I meet inspires me. Seeing a waterfall, or chatting with the person sitting beside me at a bar. Imagining new images is constant part of life, and I doubt that will ever stop.

You’re drawing more images of women.
Yes, and those images have sparked a fair amount of response. And I’ve been making more including portraits of “women in Fukuoka.” I don’t use models, but instead, the images are a blend of women I’ve met or seen in photos. I think some beauty can only be found in women, and that’s what I focus on. I like drawing the physical aspects of humans. When I draw an athlete, I carefully consider which body parts and muscles should most prominent for each sport. When drawing women, I tend to depict her natural state in daily life, not in a pose.

For men I usually am after dynamic movement, partly because I played sports. Recently I’m thinking of introducing new themes such as LGBT. I haven’t worked on that before, but I feel the timing is now right. Actually I do have one piece already – though it’s very much a hidden message. I secretly drew two women sitting next to each other. That piece will be on display at the Kitakyushu exhibition.

Any idea what you will be doing in 20 years?
I dream of having multiple bases around the world and moving around unpredictably! Say, half a year at a ryokan in Japan, then fly off to New York – something like that. But I never intend to leave Japan permanently. I love Japanese culture, I grew up here, and I owe a lot to this country. I aspire to playing a role in nurturing a society that encourages people who to create art. And I want to stay healthy enough to continue enjoying drinking and smoking!

Any message for people going to Ryu no Kiseki in Kitakyushu?
For each edition of Ryu no Kiseki, I’ve created new pieces with localized themes and motifs. For the Kitakyushu exhibition, I worked on subjects such as Kokura Castle and Kokura Gion Daiko. I also visited Ganryu-jima Island to create a piece of the famous duel between Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki. Those works represent my perception of Kitakyushu; and should be the highlight of the event. I’d love for the local audience to compare my image with how they identify to their city.

Most importantly, I hope lots of people come to my exhibition – the art should be seen live and not just on a screen.

Sumi-e Artist Yuki Nishimoto in Kitakyushu
• 10/27 (Sun.) ~ 12/26 (Thu.)
• 10:00~18:00 (last entry: 17:30), Sat.: 10:00~19:30 (last entry: 19:00)
• Adult: ¥1,200, HS & college student: ¥800, JHS & below: ¥500
• Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art
5F Riverwalk Gallery, 1-1-1 Muro-machi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka
092-532-1111 (Fukuoka Broadcasting System, weekdays 9:30~17:00)

Art & Culture
Published: Nov 27, 2019 / Last Updated: Nov 27, 2019

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