Japanoscope Translations Podcast #2: Being An Artist In Covid-19 Japan – Getting Back To Nature With Live Painter Kohei Kondo

Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite
Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite

Japanese Reading Difficulty

5/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Art, Painting, Live Painting, Covid-19, Music

Text Type

Social Media Post (from artist's instagram)

About The Artist

Kohei Kondo

I first met Kohei Kondo when we were put on the same bill to play a gig at the magnificently named Tokyo music venue「晴れたら空に豆まいて」”When the weather’s fine throw peas at the sky”.

Japanese Parasol Umbrella from haretara sora ni mame maite
Red Japanese Parasol at Haretara sora ni mame maite

I was playing songs in Japanese and English and Kohei was doing Live Painting. It was one of the first shows I had done with live painting. If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty much how it sounds. The artist makes a painting while a musician does sound. It actually works pretty well. 

In my experience, this goes on a lot more in Japan than in the English speaking world.  It’s hard to know why that is.  It could be as simple as being because Japanese gigs are usually more expensive to get into so there’s a little more money to go around. Japanese gigs also tend to be a lot less raucous, with audiences that sit and listen fairly quietly, so having an artistic element makes a lot more sense.

Liquid Lighting at Emma Russack and Lachlan gig in Melbourne

Kohei makes swirling rainbow-like visions that seem at once vivid and washed out. His style is someone remiscent of liquid lighting techniques popular from the psychadelic 60s. 

His pictures also have some common ground with the visual work of legendary Dirty Three guitarist, Mick Turner.

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

3月はライブペインティングが3本なくなり、4月は全部なくなった。

5月はhoshiotoとグリーンルームという大好きなフェス。それと台湾台北での浮現祭というフェスでのライブペインティンが楽しみだったけれど、全部なくなった。でも日本のふたつは両方とも中止ではなくて延期だから楽しみが先に延びたんだなぁと思うのも悪くない。浮現祭もまた再び開催されるといいな!

僕は絵描きとしてライブペインティングとあとは絵を個展で発表してそれを販売するというこの2つが主に大きな活動。間違った。あとはCDジャケットやポスターなどに提供もあるから3つだ。

その中でライブペインティンがなくなったので今はずっと家にいて絵を描いている。病気を持っている高齢の父とふたり暮らしなので父さんと一緒に過ごせる時間がたくさんあるのは嬉しい。もしかしたらプレゼントのような時間なのかも?とも思ってしまう。

それと去年はゆっくりとできなかった畑も再開した。毎日午後絵を描いた後に草刈りからしてるのだけどめちゃくちゃ楽しい。草刈りは明確にやった分の成果が見えるのが楽しい。あと単純に僕は土とか虫とか小さい生き物が好き。子どもの時からずっと。

どれくらいかというと方向感覚がくるちゃったのか道路を無謀にも横断しようとしているミミズを見つけたらすかさず手でつまんで草むらに救出しちゃうくらい!

草刈りが終わったら、土を耕して、苗を植えて。。。楽しみだなぁ。

今一番一生懸命描いているのは画集の絵だ。2年前から約束しているのにずっとずっと待たせてしまった。出してくれるのはやはり2年前に立ち上がったばかりの出版社。僕は元々児童書業界にいたのだけど、児童書業界というのは会社の垣根を超えて勉強会があったり普通に仲良しなんだけど、その時に知り合った他の会社の出版社の編集者。僕がクレヨンハウスという絵本屋さんで働いていた時から知ってるのだからもうもしかしたら15年ぐらいの知り合いなのかも!!!すごい!

そうそう、そのかたが会社をやめて独立をされて自分の出版社を立ち上げたのだ。その最初のタイミングで僕に声をかけてくれたのだから嬉しい。いい画集を作りたいなぁと思う。

 

あとそれに父さんは元々編集者で書物を・紙媒体をこよなく愛している人なので父さんに見せてあげれるのも嬉しい。
ところで僕は3〜4年前ほどはひたすらがむしゃらにライブペインティングをしていて、年間150本ぐらいしていた。だけどやはり父さんと過ごす時間も短くなるし、純粋に体力的にもきついなぁと感じていた。いや、体力は持つんだけど個展に向けての制作に時間がうまく配分できなくなっていた。ライブペインティングの時と制作の時は随分と精神のモードが違うのだけど、そう簡単には切り替えることができない。

だから制作を初めて1週間ぐらいたって「あ、制作モードになってきたなぁ」という時にライブペインティングが入ってしまうと心のモードが途切れてしまう。
たとえ一日のライブペインティングでもまた制作モードに入れるのは数日後。
だからこうしてずっとライブペインティングがないのことはプレゼントのような時間なような気がする。でもこう書いているとライブペインティングが嫌いなように見えてしまうけれど、全く違くて心から超超超超超大好き。

普段からこんな感じにメリハリつけて「この月は制作」とか「この月はライブ」とか決めればいいんだけど、でも難しい!
だって僕は音楽が大好きで大好きなミュージシャンがたくさんていてライブペインティングも大好きだから。
ライブペインティングのいいところはその日の化学科反応で僕でも知らない何かが描けること。なんていうか横方向に無限というか。
個展の制作はまた違う面白さがある。自分の中を深く潜っていく感じ。こっちは縦方向の無限なのか。

いつも話ずれちゃうし、「康平くんの話は落ちがなくて、雰囲気勝負だよね」って時々友達に言われてちゃうのだけど今日もそうなっちゃった。。。 とにかく今は画集の絵を頑張っているという報告と。

それとまたライブペインティングできる日をもう本当に体の奥の方からウズウズしている。みんなに会いたいな

 

Gig poster for Peter Joseph Head and Kohei Kondo gig in 2014

May has my favourite festivals, Hoshioto and Green Room. I was also looking forward to doing  live painting at the Ukigensai festival in Taipei, Taiwan, but it’s been cancelled. It’s not all bad though, at least both of the Japanese festivals are still being planned to take place at a later date and have not been canceled, so the fun has just been delayed. I hope the Ukigen Festival will happen at some stage!

These two festivals were to be my current major activities as a painter, consisting of live painting with sale of works at a solo exhibition afterwards.  I’m also working on three other CD jacket and poster projects I’ve been asked for.

So the Live Painting has stopped happening and now I’m constantly at home drawing. I live with my sick elderly father, so I’m happy to have a lot of time to spend with him.  It makes me think, maybe this time is actually like a gift?

Also, I’ve been able to get stuck into tending the rice fields that I wasn’t able to spend much time on last year. Everyday after I’ve done my painting I go out and do the mowing. I’m having a ball. It’s so satisfying to see the tangible results of something like mowing the lawn. In a simple way, I just like the soil, the insects and all the small lifeforms you come across. I’ve been that way since I was a child.

How far have my sensibilities changed? Well, If I come across an earthworm, recklessly trying to cross the road, I find myself picking it up in my fingers to deliver it to the safety of the grass!
After mowing, I plow the soil, I plant the seedlings. . . I’m having a good time
What I’m working on most intently at the moment is a new art collection. I promised the work two years ago, but I’ve been putting it off forever. The publisher only launched themselves two years ago. I was in the children’s book industry, which is a tight knit world, and the publisher is one of the editors that I used to know during this time. I’ve known him since I worked at a picture book store called Crayon House, so maybe I’ve known him for about 15 years! Wow!
Yes, that’s how it was, the editor finished up with the publisher he was with, became independent, and started his own publishing company. I was so happy that he called on me right at the start of his business. You know, I really want to make this art book good.

Also, my father was an editor, so he loves books and paper and I’m happy that I can share my work with him.

For about 3 or 4 years I was spending all my time all-out hustling doing Live Painting, and would do about 150 gigs a year. But it got to the point that I was having so little time to spend with my father, and that it was just too much for me even physically. Well, I guess I had the physical strength, but it was becoming impossible to efficiently allocate time to production for my solo exhibitions. Live painting requires a whole different state of mind, and it is not that easy to just switch the different modes of working. 

I would get into the solo production mode, feeling like “I’m getting into the zone here” and then a week later a Live Painting gig would come along and it would feel like my whole mindstate had just been interrupted.

Even with a single day’s live painting, it still takes me a few days to change modes.

So it feels like having no live painting like this is actually a gift. When I write it like that it sounds like I don’t like Live Painting but actually I love love love love Live Painting.

Ideally, it’s good to organise things so that it’s “production this month” or “Live Painting this month”, but that’s easier said than done!

I love music, I love the musicians I work with, and I love Live Painting.
The thing about live painting is that you can come up with something that is like a direct chemical reaction to what is going on at the time. It’s kind of like you find some kind of infinite horizontal direction.
Solo production is interesting in it’s own way. It’s more like you’re diving deeply inside yourself. Perhaps solo is about the infinite vertical direction?

When I talk, I always seem to go off the rails. My friends tell me, “Kouhei, your stories don’t have a punchline, you’re always trying to bluff it by creating some kind of atmosphere”, and I fear today is no different. Anyway, for now, I guess I’m just reporting that I’m hard at work on a new art collection.

Also, I’m itching, from deep down inside my body, for the day when I can get back to the Live Painting. I tell you, I can’t wait to meet up with everyone.

Kondo Kohei drawing

Visit Kondo’s website here

Visit his web shop here.

Kohei Kondo Artist Profile 

Born in 1975 in Japan, Kohei Kondo is a painter based in Tokyo. He holds a Masters Degree from Tottori University, majoring in forestry. Later he taught himself painting. He is active in a variety of “painting” genres including live painting, clothing line branding, book sleeves, CD jackets and performing arts.

 【Exhibition history】 He has heldsolo exhibitions at large commercial facilities including Laforet Harajuku,  Shinjuku Isetan and Shibuya PARCO. He has held solo exhibitions in various locations across Japan, Taiwan and the United States . 

【Work history】He has provided designs for fashion brands, seasonal visuals at commercial facilities, CD jackets, and has appeared on television. 

【Live Painting Performance】 His performances use painting improvised in accordance with musicians’ performances. While responding & synchronizing with the music, he uses the palm of his hands to paint directly on to large canvases. Audience members often remark “I have never seen painting done live as a performance” or “it felt like I was watching a movie.” He is active in various music festivals, music venues, theaters etc.

【Personal Statement】 My pictures are influenced largely by two things. One, that I spent my childhood in nature. I majored in forestry at university and have studied Japanese environments. As a result, there were many opportunities to get in touch with nature. I became interested in these wonderful habitats which bring out feelings beyond words when touching the sea, the wind, the clouds and forests. Nature is my grand motif. I would like to express the feelings that I get in nature.

The second thing is a Japanese traditional aesthetic sense called “MITATE”. For example, ancient Japanese have seen a rock in the garden as an island floating in the waves. Likewise, they have imaged the plum blossoms in association with the snow. I’d like to make use of this kind of sensibility in my paintings. I’d like to bring “mitate” into one universe and narrative, in a pattern that floats across the canvas.

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

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