I had a fascination for Japan long before I first travelled there in July, 2003, so it was no surprise that I fell in love with so many things about the place. It was a delightful and wonderfully humbling experience. I returned home with a strong desire to travel there again. I did so in September last year, this time with my partner.
I purposely avoided Tokyo on both occasions in the hope of experiencing a more 'traditional' Japan, and after spending the majority of my time in Kyoto, I was not disappointed. Sure, Kyoto has its fair share of the modern day mundane, the high tech, the fast food chains that seem to be taking over the world and other things you can see in almost any city of the modern world. However, to me all this was perfectly balanced by the traditional elements of Kyoto; the temples and shrines and the city's evident rich cultural history. It seemed a very proud city, and rightly so.
I was so thrilled to be back there in 2005. Other than New York City, Kyoto (via Osaka) is the only place I have travelled to twice, and as much as I loved New York, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Kyoto.
As an artist I had been greatly inspired by Japanese art and culture for quite some time before I actually travelled there, however, everything was heightened after my first visit.
After painting predominantly Japanese inspired works for two exhibitions I was asked if this would be a continual theme in my work. I have no idea how this question was posed but it prompted me to ask myself the same thing and to then explore other artistic influences. I suppose I was a little concerned, (only temporarily), that I may become pigeon-holed and known only as the 'artist who paints Japanese faces' etc.
In early 2004 I travelled to Germany to visit the birth town of my mother. I also visited Berlin and was most impressed with the abundance of art, galleries and street culture that I saw. It was a fantastic experience and one that encouraged me to experiment with new subject matter, technique and ideas. Whilst I enjoyed the change and new artistic challenges, I always seemed to revert back to my Eastern influences - it was just something that seemed to work for me, it was something I felt a strong connection with, just like the country, (Japan), itself.
I am constantly referring to and continuously exploring my (personal) relationship with Japan in my art and there is still so much yet to explore, which is something that excites me. Each year the work I produce has become more and more personal (intimate) yet I still strive to create and communicate in a visual language/dialogue that allows others into my works, (and the ideas behind them), and maybe even relate to or share the experience. I paint for myself but I am aware of the fact that the work will be seen and considered by the public. I do not expect that everyone will connect or relate to the work, or even like the work, however I always try to communicate, as best I can, my experiences and emotions through my work. For me it is an intimate process.
I still possess a strong desire to return again to Japan to further explore it's rich historical culture and now also to immerse myself in it's contemporary culture and the high tech Japan. It is an amazing country, rich, diverse and like no other place on earth, and certainly one that continues to intrigue, entice and inspire me as an artist.
This may be a case of 'the grass is always greener' as I tend to lack an interest in the history of my own country. I have discussed this in depth with my partner who suggests that the Japanese may feel the same way about their cultural history. Who knows. Perhaps it is my own ignorance that forbids me to seek or find inspiration from my own country's history and I mean no disrespect - but for now that's just the way it is.