Shizuka Kusayanagi Interview - The Hopper Prize

Shizuka Kusayanagi

Shizuka Kusayanagi on early memories of making art, changing directions, and painting as an extension of a meditation practice.

How did you get into making art?

I always liked making things with my hands and getting them dirty. I have an early memory of making mud balls in between a fence and the back wall of a storage shack at my kindergarten, all alone and happy (I think!). The dirt there must have had just the right texture, lol! I always enjoyed art class in kindergarten, even though I was always the last one to finish a project. And then I went to art school for college, thinking I wanted to go into fashion design, but then I studied graphic design, always dabbling in hand-dirty art like printmaking. Because I also enjoy writing and used to want to be a comedian or actress, I also drew and wrote little stories, poems, lyrics, etc. I felt like I always had something to say or express that people found different, which I felt proud of. I liked and still love making people laugh. Comedy is art, right? The “slow” part I felt insecure about, but it’s because I sometimes think too much for too long and really care about what I create!

What are you currently working on?

I am working on more paintings that I want people to “feel” into. I would love to start making larger works. I’m debating whether to start painting with acrylics because of the lower cost and faster speed. Plus, I paint at home, and I don’t like painting in oil when I have the kids with me at the house. I would love to sculpt too, but I shouldn’t get myself too scattered…

I always liked making things with my hands and getting them dirty.

Shizuka Kusayanagi

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

Uhhh.. it gets a bit personal but in short, I had a traumatic thing happen several years ago and only about a year ago started to committ myself to heal and figure out how to love myself. I turned 40 and maybe you could call it a midlife crisis where I felt like I was thrown into a situation where I had to figure out who I was when I didn’t have others to pour love into. I started painting seriously, obsessively, it’s still kind of crazy how I quit my job to just paint for a whole while, especially when I have two kids that I coparent and I live in the most expensive city on the planet and I am on welfare… But I had to do it! Long story short, I saw an energy healer and started meditating and I switched painting in oil on linen in stead of a gessoed board, and it all kind of clicked one day. I knew I had a breakthrough, and I really enjoy painting on linen and painting as an extension to my meditation practice and healing.

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

Right now I am concentrating on my recent body of work, but my mind is always looking at macro, micro, and everything in between. I have so many ideas and things I want to do, but it takes a long time to be good at one thing, and since I only started to really paint a year ago, I’m going to be working on that for now. That said, I am always open to how I can incorporate painting into other areas, like installation, combining it with story-telling or performance, or collaborating with other artists and musicians alike. I also create art workshops for kids and adults, and I suppose you could call that an art practice too. Being able to create an experience for and with others through art is really meaningful. I also have a graphic design background and am curious about integrating traditional painting with technology and commercial work.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

After feeding myself well and usually having opened up a can of sparkling water, I start painting, sometimes in silence, sometimes with loud music, sometimes with podcasts like Spiritual Shit and The Great Women Artists, sometimes with Japanese or French radio on… Typically, I work on several paintings at once, with probably lots of breaks in between: looking, thinking, getting distracted on Instagram and life and work stuff, cleaning, etc. I do feel like I concentrate more at night. Though during the day I get lots of sunlight in the studio, which is nice. I also snack a lot and sometimes take naps in between; it all depends on the day. I’m definitely not a disciplined artist with plans from A to Z; I really go with my own internal rhythm and flow and work intuitively. When you become a parent, and moreover, a single parent, you kind of have to be okay with rolling with the punches or just embracing the chaos and working with it.

Who are your favorite artists?

Leonora Carrington, Peter Doig, Kerry James Marshall, Rebecca Morris, Michaël Borremans… I have a print of Sung Hwa Kim, and love and respect work of my amazing old friend from NY days, Lui Shtini. They are all painters but of course there are so many more artists I love and respect who have other disciplines.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Instagram, the rabbit hole of Googling, checking out gallery openings (usually Saturdays in LA), being in a group show, talking to friends, listening to podcasts… I cannot NOT bump into an artist by walking down the street for maybe 15 minutes or picking up a phone. There are three galleries within walking distance of my home, which helps, and I am always looking up art stuff online.

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network