Shingo Shaun Yamazaki Interview - The Hopper Prize

Shingo Shaun Yamazaki

Shingo Shaun Yamazaki on working towards an upcoming exhibition, growing up in a unique and diverse community, & incorporating overarching themes of identity & cultural hybridity.

How did you get into making art?

I am a second generation Japanese/Korean American, born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Growing up in Hawaiʻi provided unique and diverse community, I was able to learn, embrace, and live within multiple cultural identities. Being surrounded by lush tropical landscape and learning to respect and preserve nature, has also shaped my views and perspective of our relationship to our surroundings. From an early age, I was always seeking opportunities to be creatively involved, whether it be making dioramas, or drawing my own story books. My artwork during high school consisted mostly of sketches in notebooks that I did not think of in a serious capacity. When I entered college, I took several art courses as electives, and that really opened me up to an entirely new way of thinking, and I started to take things more seriously. I moved to Los Angeles 4 years ago, which gave me a lot of exposure to the current art scene that was not accessible in Hawaiʻi.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working towards an exhibition at UTA Artists Space in Los Angeles, CA. I’ll have roughly 5 to 6 pieces on display for this show along with a sculptural element.

Most of my work still remains broadly thematic in overarching themes of identity and cultural hybridity.

Shingo Shaun Yamazaki

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I have long since been curious about my family history, and what form that takes as one grows up in a place like Hawaiʻi. I draw upon a mixture of cultural nuances, iconography, and imagery inspired by my upbringing in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and more recently my migration to Los Angeles. The work oscillates between reality and the imagined, in which subtle layers of multicultural iconography are uniquely juxtaposed to confront the viewer with an amalgamation specific to personal and generational history. The idea stems from the fact that ancestors who have migrated have had to assimilate, and the form that this assimilation takes is a unique story to each community. I chose to dissect mine. I consider this body of work as a conversation between the past and the present within a liminally psychological space.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

My work generally is a jumping point from my most recently completed projects, however most of my work still remains broadly thematic in overarching themes of identity, and cultural hybridity. Although my work appears to be carefully planned out, there’s a lot of improvisation and puzzling in between that allows my work to develop naturally.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I frequently work at pretty irregular hours late in the evening. Ever since college I’ve been more of a nocturnal worker since I enjoy the quiet and tranquility of the night. I also do have a job with long hours so I am constantly juggling my time between my work and my art practice. Whenever I am at my studio I’d put on a podcast, or a show that I’ve watched a number of times just to have some noise while I work.

Who are your favorite artists?

It’s very difficult in all honesty to narrow down favorites, because I think this constantly changes over time and the fact the list can go on and on. I do always have several artists in mind. I am currently looking at work from artists such as Jennifer Packer, Philip Guston, Sasha Gordon, Jordan Casteele, Anna Park, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Now that I have been in Los Angeles for about 4 years, I have made it a routine to go to openings and seek out new artists that spark my interest. In addition I also do have a set of rotating artists on my radar through social media and podcasts.

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