Yutaka Inagawa graduated top of his class at the fiercely competitive Tokyo University in 1997. Most people I know would subtly drop that in when asked about their crowning achievements to date. Or their stellar time at the Chelsea College of Art which followed, or the shows in Paris, Seoul, New York and indeed London. Perhaps even the various prizes they were short-listed for (the Celeste and New Contemporaries amongst the few this year alone). Yet he says his defining moment so far was early in his career, when his father hung one of his paintings on the wall of their Ikebukuro home. Unfortunately, as it was a massive canvas, his father sawed it in half. ‘My father, who is particular about everything, then decided it looked better as one piece. When he tried to glue it back together – and I was still horrified at this point – I realised that his obsessive practicality had actually been overcome somewhat by a sense of artistic responsibility – although a bit too late! That effect of making someone protective and respectful of a body of work, was a turning point for me,’ he says, smiling, without a trace of irony..
I meet Yutaka, and one of his fellow artists, in a café off Old Compton St. Throughout the interview his friend is totally engrossed with taking photographs on his camera. I later find out that part of Yutaka’s inspiration comes from these digital images that he transforms, mutates and recreates in his head. So be aware, when you next find yourself in a stranger’s lens sight, you may well be providing the inspiration for Yutaka Inagawa’s next piece of art.
JC: OK, let’s start with the cliché..Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?
YI: Experience…. Life experience. A lot of this stemming from my growing up in Tokyo, among the un-harmonization between tradition & modernity. I also take lots of photographs of anything that catches my attention. It could be a kettle or cup & saucer. I’ve created a library in my head of images that I digest and regurgitate in cycle when developing the visual language of each piece.
JC: A lot of your pieces are very complicated. It doesn’t fit into any standard fine art box does it?
YI: I’m trained in painting, line drawing and photography. I incorporate each of these disciplines in my pieces, which could explain the busyness. I like creating collages as I believe life in general is very complex. There’s always an underlying issue or thought. This is what I try to verbalise with some of my pieces.
JC: You use a lot of repetitive images in your work. Is there a particular meaning attached to this?
YI: Definitely, if you look at the repetition pieces, there are small yet noticeable differences. It’s not a straightforward repeat process, we’re not machines. It’s a development process. Each repeat is evolving naturally when I work. It’s all very organic. I’m not interested in perfect, I’m interested in progression and integration.
JC: What’s next for Yutaka?
YI: I worked with a friend on some animation and I’d love to continue down this route. I love the idea of creating moving images. I’m also preparing for a big solo exhibition in Korea very soon. I’ve got to create 25 pieces to exhibit! ……I’m getting there.
JC: How would you interpret Glitter & Doom?
YI: Glitter: Over the top. Doom: Rituals
JC: Which would you consider yourself to be?
YI: Glitter. Not really. Haha.