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Link to the original CBC article on their website

CBC Manitoba Scene (Manitoba, Canada)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Japanese artist applies yin and yang theory to life in Winnipeg

"I go back to Japan to see my family and friends once in a while, and I always enjoy the trip, but when I stay there too long, I find myself itching to come back to Winnipeg." - Takashi Iwasaki

Takashi Iwasaki is one of seven visual artists being featured this month in "Hovercraft" at aceartinc. Originally from Japan, Takashi Iwasaki came to Winnipeg in 2002 when he was 20 years old. He completed his fine arts degree at the U. of M. in 2006.  In that short time, he has embraced Winnipeg, and appreciates its moderate size/stature which allows artists to co-exist peacefully.  

SCENE asked Takashi Iwasaki to share his thoughts on being an artist in Winnipeg. 

How I ended up in Winnipeg
I come from a small town with the population of about 10,000 called Shimizu in Hokkaido, Japan. I always wanted to study fine art and English language, but studying both at the same time in Japan seemed to be inefficient: I had a feeling that I would have had to choose one of them or I would spread myself too thin and wouldn't get either of them. Studying abroad had been my interest, too, and one day I thought that I could study fine art at a university in an English speaking country.  Then I'd also learn the language from everyday life there - this seemed to be a perfect solution. I looked into entrance criteria from different schools in North America, and the University of Manitoba seemed to match my English level at that time, had a sound art program, and it was one of the schools that accepted my entry. Before applying to the U of M, I studied English at a two-year college in Japan, and one of the instructors there was from Winnipeg. So I felt like Winnipeg wasn't too foreign to me, and knowing someone from there helped me feel positive about Winnipeg. The former instructor is back in Winnipeg and has been one of my good friends to this date.

My love towards Winnipeg grew, and I realized that it was an ideal base city for me to create art, so I decided to stay here. Now I have the Canadian permanent resident visa (it's NOT citizenship, just to be clear), and it's my 9th year in Winnipeg. It's been almost a decade, and 1/3 of my life - it's a bit surprising to me, too, but I think it proves how much I like Winnipeg. Now I call Winnipeg my hometown. I go back to Japan to see my family and friends once in a while, and I always enjoy the trip, but when I stay there too long, I find myself itching to come back to Winnipeg.

In general I think the art scene and people's attitude towards art in North America suits my way of thinking. Winnipeg's art scene is very supportive to artists.

Winnipeg's art scene:
In Winnipeg there are a lot of artists that I like - either because of their personality, their work, or both. Probably partly because of its "medium-sized" population and geography (not too big, not too small, and things are relatively concentrated in a small area, rather than spread out like... let's say the relationship between Vancouver and its suburban/residential cities nearby), many artists know each other and seem to help each other. The arts community here seems to be tight knitted and supportive. Of course there are artists at different levels, genres, interests and so on, so it's not like everyone gets along with each other, but in general, I feel something warm and supportive about the arts scene in general. I guess it can be said not only about the arts scene, but of relationships between people in Winnipeg in general, even in different sectors.

Compared to other bigger cities, the economy, mentality, and perhaps quality to some extent in the arts scene may have something to be desired, but those things can also be advantages depending on how we look at them. There may not be as many rich people as bigger cities who are willing to spend a lot of money on art, but cheaper real estate in Winnipeg probably helps artists put more hours and focus into creating their works instead of putting more hours into "work" to make ends meet.

With the trend of commerce and communication increasingly relying on the internet, having a base in Winnipeg and selling your works or communicating with other artists, galleries and stores in other places is very possible and feasible (yet I won't say they're easy to do). So far I'm very comfortable to have my base in Winnipeg. For now it has almost all I need for what I want to create.

My art influence and how I create:
It often comes from my everyday life. I see my creation as my "visual diary". Instead of writing down my thoughts with words, I depict my feelings and thoughts with the visual format which is also a "language." Often times it's more of a summary of events and things in a certain period of time. Visually I often find interest in fashion, architecture, products, traditional patterns from different cultures, insects, nature, and so on. I sometimes feel like I'm spreading myself too thin, but I like working in different mediums like painting, collage, embroidery, and sculpture. Working in those different formats makes me feel that I'm activating different parts of my body and brain. Bringing out viewers' positive feelings and playfulness is also my goal in art making.

Semai Gallery:
The location of Semai Gallery was part of a gallery called Cream Gallery, owned and managed by Leala Hewak (Leala Katz back then). I worked for her at the Cream Gallery as an assistant. After Cream closed, Keepsakes Gallery moved in for which I also worked, but they didn't use the corridor space as an gallery space like Cream did, and I got a chance to utilize the space. I always felt that for many artists having a solo art show could be a difficult thing because of the commitment and amount of work to produce to "fill" a gallery space, or whatever reasons that they may have. But because Semai Gallery is so narrow and small (but long - about 35 feet), I saw that it could be a good space for artists to try out, experiment, and do something more spontaneously than in a conventional gallery space. As a director of Semai Gallery I can select artists that I like and/or provide a space for those with interesting ideas that I feel connected to. It's a space for other artists to show their work, not for myself to show my own work (there's a clear line). I also love utilizing small spaces. Semai Gallery has been my somewhat painstaking but very interesting and satisfying small art project since 2006.

Copyright © 2005-2011 Takashi Iwasaki