Interview with Kenya Shimizu

●Please tell me the concept of your two dimensional works and the work that was exhibited this time using Billy dolls.

A common concept to my paintings and the Billy dolls is “Japanese. ”
There has been a custom of “danshoku” from ancient days in our country, but it has come to be erased from our history records nowadays.
And, although they are not generally seen, the sensational traditional cultures of “Tattooing” and “Bondage” continue, even today.
They are never never learnt at school.
I first learnt of them as an adult and came to have an appreciation of them as part of my heritage.
I am proud to be Japanese, and have produced my works as “Japanese” culture.

In my recent paintings, I paint “the beauty of Japanese men.”
Especially in the motif of “Samurai,” I want to express ideal Japanese men who were loyal to their master, observed proper etiquette, carried out justice and showed compassion for the weak.
A man with high aspirations who adheres to these principles is referred to as “Samurai,” although the samurai no longer exist in Japan.
I also think men who openly display sexual desire are very attractive, so I have drawn some male “Shunga (erotic Ukiyoe)” before.
I design a lot of “Dragons” in the tattoos because I just love the motif of the dragon.
The dragon is a very good motif in the Orient, and the dragon was drawn as a symbol of the emperor in Ryukyu and China before.

As you know, the Billy dolls don’t have an Asian character. Still, these dolls epitomize gay culture. Gay Japanese men embraced this Billy doll just like Western gays.
I tried arranging the artwork in a Japanese style, and produced it in two outlines this time.
One is “Bondage.”
I expressed “Japanese eroticism” by binding the doll with Japanese bondage, which has existed for a long time, and incorporated a traditional Japanese hanger. The other is “Hina dolls. ” Families in Japan celebrate Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival, to pray for the happiness and healthy development of girls in each household once a year. The appearance of Hina dolls was heavily influenced by the glamorous fashion of the Imperial court of around 1000 years ago.
There is a traditional Japanese belief that, by touching the dolls, all illness and bad luck will be transferred to them…
I wanted to produce a “Mens’ only Hina doll ” by using Billy dolls.

Samurai 1 By kenya Shimizu

Samurai 1 By kenya Shimizu

●What inspired you to start creating work?

I was inspired after participating in a combination exhibition “Rainbow Arts”. this is an art exhibition held by the LGBTI community in Tokyo every summer.

●What kind of reception was there when you had a private exhibition in London a few years ago?

I had my first exhibition at the gallery in London in 2008.
I heard it was very popular because it was the first time works by an Asian artist were exhibited.
I also heard it was introduced by a local gay magazine.
At that time in London, it seems that the exhibition of Japanese gay works was quite unusual.

Samurai 2 By Kenya Shimizu

Samurai 2 By Kenya Shimizu

●Is there any thing or person you  are influenced by to create artwork?

Harry Clarke, Alfons Mucha, Sadao Hasegawa, Go Mishima, Naomichi etc…

Samurai 3 by kenya Shimizu

Samurai 3 by kenya Shimizu

●Which part is the most difficult in your production process? 

Meeting the production time.
If producing the Billy dolls and paintings at the same time, I am limited in the number of artworks I can create.
If I had to choose one, I prefer painting and sewing. But when I get stuck on either of my artforms, its a good chance to take a rest and try something different.

Japanese man by Kenya Shimizu

Japanese man by Kenya Shimizu

●What do you think about Japanese gay scene?

Still on the road to development. But it doesn’t mean there is no hope at all…

●Do you have a partner?

Yes. We’ve been together for 4 years.

●What are your plans in the future? What kind of activities would you like to do?

It’s best, I guess, if I keep producing the work that I want to make.
It’s ideal to hear positive evaluations of my work every time, but I know it’s unreal and impossible.
It’s wonderful if I can incorporate the current fashions in my work.
But I want to avoid losing sight of my style by becoming too popular.
I want to find my style even if it’s not widely acclaimed.
Well, if my work doesn’t gain popularity, your company (Mayumi International) is embarrassed…

Colored Leaves by kenya Shimizu

Colored Leaves by kenya Shimizu

●Please give a message to the people seeing this site.

I do hope to my works will make a lasting impression! Thank you.

Spring is in full swing by Kenya Shimizu

Spring is in full swing by Kenya Shimizu

Coming soon: Kenya Shimizu’s new work and past work/ Kenya Shimizu’s new work and past work exhibited at the exhibition presented by Rainbow Arts this year will soon be available. Please wait until we acquire them.