Artist Interviews 2013: Sayaka Abe

Aritst interview 2013.10.29



Furious artist face ↑ Looks painful yo!
So, Sayaka… shall we begin?

What made you apply for the Kamiyama Artist in Residence program?
It's a good question.. erm.. many reasons. One of them is that there is always a story in my work from somebody who I encounter and spend time with. Not like an interview more like doing something together and learn and that experience transfers into my work and I did a Dutch lady and I also did with my grandmother and I wanted to do it somewhere with obachan's, ojichan's in Japan. So, that was my wish and then I asked around and one lady who is Japanese who runs another residency; she told me oh there is a nice one: it's called Kamiyama. I searched a little bit.. and.. I love it! How Nicolai san uploaded all the photos and comments and what's happening in the residency and around Kamiyama.

Describe your work in one word
One word? Hmm.. choose one word? Memory.

Do you have a special method for generating your ideas?
Method? Technically or process? I first look for stories that I wanna start with, then collecting images and other stories around. Compose stories, then I choose materials and in the end the work is kind of… how do you say… not patchwork but… collected things. It could be drawings, it could be coloured, it could be sound collected into one space. So that's the method, and drawing because I lived in Holland a long time and it's difficult to communicate in language and drawing became my communication tool. But, now I'm in Japan and still using drawing as a kind of communication so somehow that's (drawing) always a part of my work.

What is the most frightening experience you have ever had?
Yeah. The most frightening experience I've ever had in my life? Good question…! I guess… I lost someone close to myself in my family. I lost my brother when I was ten. It's kind of mentally occupied somehow, unconsciously. We had ten years difference. He was ten years younger. Finally ,I got a brother when I was ten years old but somehow he disappeared after six years. In the short period in my life when I had a brother, I had no other brothers or sisters apart from him. When I lost him it was kind of frightening and I also saw my family changing. My mother was quite attached to him because he had a handicap so he always stayed in the hospital. And when she lost him it was a terrible experience. And for me also it was really terrible. Confusing. Uncontrollable. I was 16 so I was at high school. That made me unsure and insecure to stay in one place or be attached to somebody for a long time. I'm a bit afraid to be part of something for a long time. So when I studied art in Tokyo I had to choose, stay in Tokyo or… I guess I didn't have to choose but I wanted to choose: to stay in Tokyo or much further from my hometown; I didn't want to go back there because there was so many condensed things there and if I went back there I probably wouldn't do anything. Kind of very safe and I always wanted to avoid a safe zone. Maybe also because I am an only child I don't know how to be part of a group of the same age.
Sometimes being by myself and playing around in my own world. Group things are not so good. I always have a switch ‘on' and ‘off'. Now it's ‘on'!

What is your favourite Japanese food?
Hmm… Natto!

What do you enjoy most about creating art?
What do I enjoy most? Eh… Experiences by finding new ways, new visions, new combinations. I always want to try different materials and they way to put them together. And, when I leave the work I know a lot. When I'm making something I'm really into it but when I feel I can leave it I can.. like… feel I don't have to hold it anymore I enjoy it very much. Sometimes I can't be bothered to explain it to people. I have an ‘on' switch to explain to people but, sometimes, I don't even want to look at a picture. It passed…!

What does Kamiyama lack? What does it need?
Good question… Another restaurant? Yeah it's true I'm already thinking about going to Awa Café for lunch again! In a way I don't miss more restaurants so much. What does Kamiyama lack? Maybe, kids. There are many kids. Yesterday at the elementary school the kids were relaxing and they all know each other. They have a good wave, a friendly wave.
In the other school which closed (in Kamibun), it had already been closed for a long time and it used to have 800 students now just 8 to go to school. I like the way of living here, it is completely new to me: growing and sharing and you can be alone because there is a lot of space. Sometimes you meet and eat together or lose yourself.. I miss that in Amsterdam. That part I really like; it's a treasure for me here I think. It's how to continue, how to sustain it with the new generation… so kids… or… young parents. I know there is always an issue of new people coming in and the balance between the new people and the local people, but that always happens. They will probably find a way.
You have a kid. Good job!

How did you discover your passion for art?
It could be… for my art? How to speak to myself. There is no good communication between the things and things in my brain, in my head and that's stuck somehow in my head; that I don't know how to digest. I don't always talk a lot, so doing art, again, digesting myself, digesting experiences and communications in a way that I am here and meeting somebody. I was an only child so always doing my own stuff by myself so of course, I do drawing. I did piano practice for 10 years since three or four years old. My teacher said now you must draw what you play. Sometimes really short songs about eating strawberries or something like that, and that experience continued. Communication between my piano teacher and around that time it was just beginning…

Do you think you have a particular technique/style?
Maybe some people decide what is my style. Pencil drawing… in a way it's a contradiction. I want to avoid it, I want to leave it but I can't somehow. It's always comes back. So, that could be part of my style. Also, light. Natural light or artificial light. I always like to contain the work. The light of my memories or to bring back memories somehow. I said my work is about memories but the work needs the light. I choose textiles often because the textiles can contain the light or the let light go through it. It creates a different space. Light always. I need it.

Do you find art difficult?
Complicated. I was in school for a long time. Started in a Japanese school then studied in Amsterdam. I learned about methods or a technique and so on, but, that is very different when you live with art, like, making art and living. If I start thinking of the other world, like, the making art world the other part (living) is kind of sinking… Yer, difficult in a way. Yeah, always in-between optimistic and pessimistic, optimistic, pessimistic, optimistic, pessimistic! It's partly nice… ! Really complex!

If you had really long arms for one month, what would you do?
Waaah. My long arms.. Err. Interesting question. I've never thought about long arms, only long legs. Ok.. How long is it? I'd like to reach to… I can see what I can touch? Yeah? I want to touch the clouds and maybe I want to dig into the mountains. As long as I can see what's going on at the tip of my fingers. Yeah! I always wanted to go into the mountain but… I imagine what's going on behind the trees and I want to let my hands go into the trees.

How do you feel in Kamiyama?
Oooh. Yeaaah. First of all, it's great. Yeah. I feel there's not enough time. There are a lot of things to enjoy. There is something, oh, not something, many things that I've missed in city life: relaxing, more close to life. Since I've been in Kamiyama I've started not bothering about what I'm really worried about when I am in Amsterdam. It's a very different way of living. I wake up earlier in the morning.

How would you like your art to relate to Kamiyama and its residents?
Hmmmm.. When I came here there were a lot of rich things: objects, nature, and people. It was really beautiful and I was really interested in every detail and it was amazing; and the nature as well. So I couldn't draw. I didn't want to change the things, transform them into something else – it is already beautiful. So that brought me to doing the umeboshi portrait. I wanted to capture them and I wish that, maybe art, I prefer it when people experience it and the work itself is more about talking by people who are in Kamiyama. I really wanted to have contact, my work and the people. In the beginning, I tried to get as, much as possible, information and stories from people. So I hope the people thought a little bit that there was something going on, that there is someone doing something in Kamiyama. So, I like the artwork which relates to the people or.. Yeah, it doesn't matter if you understand everything or not. I tried to keep it simple. By doing the art, if we could meet people, more people in Kamiyama and experience not as an object but more the experiences and memories could stay in Kamiyama and Kamiyama people.
Yeah, in the beginning I wanted to have a fixed thing; I thought it's nice to have something permanent in the mountain which I've never done. But, I want this work to relate more to the people and their experiences.

What is the worst thing you've ever made?
Work? I have to search my memories. I always try to forget. Ahhhh…. It's not the last (question)! The worst thing? I know my worst thing was my experience in my childhood. I was eating chewing gum. I love it. After the chewing gum doesn't taste anymore but still I love it: I didn't want to throw it so I kept it in my pocket. Of course, the clothes got dirty and I couldn't wear it anymore but also, the dirt, I liked. Never put chewing gum in my pocket.

What do you think about this ham?00011415.jpg
Aaaaaaaah. Eh… … What's this? Er… Make a circle? Not so attractive to eat… Hmmm.. Mother who doesn't like to cook but still her children have to eat but the mother hates to cook so she just thought ‘Oh, put the face on it', put the face ham on the plate and just balance it with something healthy ‘Oh, why not just a bit of tomato, a carrot, cheese and left over bacon like, from two days ago'! ‘Darling, this is your breakfast'! ‘Eat! You must be happy with a bear face!'

What do you dislike about your work?
Sometimes very illustrative which I don't like when I show it to people. So maybe you can say, you should stop drawing but I can't do that. So that's what I dislike: I can't control it. Somehow I don't feel happy to show but in a way it's easy to communicate with people that way, to explain the work. But also, I dislike that. Complicated!

What is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
Mmmm beautiful, interesting. Thank you! I don't need to hear it!

What is the best smell?
The best smell… The air… of mountains?

Who inspires you?
In a way… there are many. I like the style of work of Francis Arise. Belgian but lives in Brazil. Her work is about how the political work… are?.. how the poetic work makes political work. She does drawing works that look like fantasy but behind it's more about the people in Brazil and how they feel and stuff. I like Hans Op De Beeck. Hans.. Op.. De Beeck, the Belgian artist. H.. A.. Hans.. Op.. Op like this is a middle name I think… ( V E E K?) No sorry, like the banana.

Can you describe Kamiyama in one word?

If you lived in Kamiyama forever what would you do?
What would I do? Dyeing textiles from trees. The materials are here and every month there is a different colour from the same tree; it sounds like fun. That would occupy my time.

How do you feel when you show your work to the public?
Mmmm… Depends.. If I feel it's done I feel relaxed that it can stand by itself.. but.. when I finish in the last minute always feel a bit aaaawwwwwww! If the audience come by and stand in front of me without words, I feel like uncomfortable, maybe I should start to talk. The one thing that I cannot handle is silence in public. Silence by myself is fine: I stay in my own world, but silence in two people I feel insecure and I start talking.

If you were a sound, what would you be?
Eeeeehhh. Aaaaah. What could be the sound? In a way, sometimes it doesn't matter. I'm not good at being in a silent space, but I don't really care what kind of sounds are in a space. I get used to the sounds: my mum used to play the same CD's over and over. Classical music. I didn't care which music was on. The music I don't want to be is really high tone pitched like a car sound or heavy machinery. That I don't want to be, but as long as I am a harmonised sound I am good. I am quite OK. As long as I don't have silence around me!

Do you have a weakness?
Yeah! I fall asleep anywhere. Anywhere, anytime. I think it's a sickness, a disease. I have to make an effort and I have a feeling that I'm not going to fall asleep I'm going to listen, I'm going to watch. I give it some effort: even if I sit at the front, on the first line, at a conference or things. When I imagine a really vivid colour in my head it's actually part of a dream! This happens sometimes anywhere!
Sometimes I can stay awake, but I just don't have control over when I fall asleep. It's kind of a family thing. If you ask Manus he will laugh about my father who fell asleep when he was driving. The car was turning…!




Itoi-san - Kanuma soil. Likes salmon sashimi, dislikes entrails of sea cucumber. Ru-san - Lancashire hotpot. Creative type. Likes being outdoors. Dislikes status. Together we are ITOI ARTS a project in divergent creativity in the mountains of Shikoku, Japan. 四国の山奥、多様な創作、アートとは。 //イベント時のみオープン// \\ふだんはただの家//

Articles by itoi+ru-san


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