We don't know if you know about it, but we hope you will come and see it. Straight from Japan, the works of this multidisciplinary artist have been exhibited in museums all over the world. Playing with the limits between reality and surrealism, his is the excellence of the everyday.  "The melting figure is the statement of the unreal", he says. We speak to Yosuke Amemiya about all this and more.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born in 1975 in Ibaraki, Japan. I just moved back to Japan after spending over 10 years in Amsterdam and Berlin. I work in various expressions, like sculpture, performance, drawing, video installations, and more. I have also run a project since 2014 called Perfectly Ordinary Stone, Carried For 1300 Years, which will take 1300 years in total. It will be translated into Spanish soon.
My work has a structure similar to jamming down the accelerator and the brakes at the same time by the transcendental technique of sculpture, or the unique speaking style in performance. I aim to create works that would prompt the audience to reconsider both the contemporary and art notions by offering an art appreciation experience that is like being transferred to the other topological spaces before realising it.
Preparing for the interview I found out that you graduated from the Oil Painting Department at Tama Art University, although nowadays you mainly do sculpture. What made you change discipline?
I use various mediums. For example, in the exhibition in 2019, I exhibited oil paintings. I always have a theme first, the way to express it follows after that.
Especially outside of Japan, I might be recognised as “an apple sculptor” since the apple images spread internationally. Still, my major work in 2021 was the video installation which was made with my speech, images, and programming. I saw many people were weeping after the video even though it was only 13 minutes long. The exhibition will be repeated in summer 2022, I would like you to see it!
Looking at your early works, I understand that since your beginnings you have wanted to capture this notion of still life, explored mostly in oil paintings, right?
My debut work in 1999 was Mimic (a frog simulates). In this exhibition, as you go through it, you see things less and less. It was based on my comprehension of reality even though it doesn't have its original sensitivity but simulating things superficially could also be the original idea. However, I realised the frog stood out more and more when I tried to make it less visible. So, I made a series of Automimicry in 2000, for example, The bear stuffed animal is drawn on the surface of the bear stuffed animal figure or The sofa is drawn on the surface of the sofa figure.
I would say I am the one attached to the surface of my figure. This was exactly like how 3D Computer Graphics would later be. At the time, I was thinking it would be interesting to find a gap or a distortion between reality and things that covered the real things. For example, the difficulty to make the bedsheets just fit when covering the bed with it. I think I was intrigued to make these gaps and distortions visible by my sculpture.
After that, the desire to capture this whole world with this sense encouraged me to move on to work with spaces. I think it was around 2005, I started to work on the video installation with the theme of “the image on the mirror and its space”. The melted apple was created in 2005 for this installation.
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The year after that installation, in 2008 with Whiplash Neuron, we see your famous apples reappear. You told Wall Street International that you wanted them to serve as a domino effect. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
I don’t remember well what I said, but I think I wanted to talk about my aim in my work, which is the experience to re-recognise the attraction of this world and to be bewildered.
The exhibition Ring Me Twice is an example. After the audiences see the apple in the exhibition, they find other apples in the supermarket, for example, in their ordinary life. I set a little bomb in their pocket at the exhibition then when they go back to the reality, the bomb would be exploded if they would think “was the apple really like this?” and it goes on like a domino to the cucumber, human being, sky, world… that was my anticipation for the title.
Beyond seeing a frozen moment or the usual still life, I seem to see references to surrealism and the weight of time. What were your inspirations?
I’ve been asked about the relation to surrealism artists like Salvador Dalí. Why do I make melted apples? To be honest, I didn’t quite understand why I was interested in creating apples that looked just like real ones. But since I started to make a black and white series, I became aware of this strongly.
The melted apple does not exist in this world. The melting figure is the statement of the unreal. However, to show it as real, it should be instilled with appleness”several times more than the natural one. The black and white one, too. The most distinctive feature of the apple is the red fruit. If it’s not red, usually it doesn’t look like an apple. Here I use the technique as I mentioned earlier, like jamming down the accelerator and the brakes at the same time which is one of the racing techniques use to turn through a corner quickly. In this case, I use the accelerator and brakes of the recognition, and the vibration from that mixes real and unreal.
As a result, I feel the wobbling certainty of this world is a great entertainment. As I experienced this in the supermarket, it triggered my creation. In a roundabout way, but this is the reason I melt my apples.
To change the subject. You have been exhibiting your work since 1999, which has allowed you to work with a variety of materials and supports. Which have you felt most comfortable with, and which have been the most difficult?
Every creation is comfortable and difficult. One thing I can say is the exhibition made familiarly and comfortably would not always provide a comfortable appreciation experience. I didn’t learn about performance in my education, but I started it in the middle of my career as I thought it was necessary. I didn’t know things and groped in the dark sometimes, but I believe this was also the advantage for contemporary art.
What other projects are you working on?
Besides the sculpture work, I am preparing an installation for my exhibition in Japan, collaborating with a brand in Barcelona, on video installation at the site of a disaster [from a Tsunami in 2011] in Japan, and the two solo exhibitions which contain the things I talked about earlier. I also plan to make a picture book.
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