Misato Suzuki is diving deep into her artistic emotions with "Undercurrent", her first solo exhibition in a decade — opening Thursday, November 9th.
A reflection of being swept along the depths, where she continues to search and explore, not quite ready to breach the surface, "Undercurrent" will offer a look into Misato's current artistic state. "My journey as an artist thus far has been a continuous, lifelong learning experience," says Misato, offering us a glimpse into her journey.
Scroll down to read our conversation with Misato, and please join us in welcoming her exhibition 'Undercurrent' from November 9th to November 26th. All pieces will be available for purchase for the duration of the exhibition, with Misato in attendance at the show's opening weekend on November 11th and 12th.
ET: You were born in Japan and educated here in the United States. How does your upbringing in Aomori, Japan and your time here in the U.S. appear in your work today?
MS: I feel that two cultures are better and more naturally fused in my work, both in terms of color and concept. My work is influenced by my childhood in Japan, near the ocean and surrounded by forests and green everywhere. Now living in Southern California, the landscape and culture is very different than my home country. However, both environments are reflected in my paintings. I draw inspiration from the vibrancy of my surroundings and Japanese cultural background. My delicate, abstract style integrates organic forms and recognizable shapes, from silhouettes to umbrellas.
ET: Can you tell us about your journey as an artist — starting from childhood? What are you hoping to share with the audience with this upcoming exhibition at Tortoise?
MS: I have loved drawing since I was a child, but I never considered art as my career until I came to the United States. After a dramatic encounter, I learned oil painting from a local artist, I had always wanted to experiment with this medium. Under the influence of this wonderful teacher, I decided to pursue the path as an artist. For me, each exhibition has a significant meaning because what I am facing at that time is different. Therefore, this exhibition at Tortoise, I would like for the audience to be able to experience a real sense of tranquility and harmony as the world becomes more chaotic and overwhelmingly fast paced. I hope my work will allow the people to pause and appreciate the simple wonders of nature.
ET: Can you talk about the recurring motifs that appear in your paintings and drawings, like the pointillism and stripes?
MS: I have always been drawn to repetitive objects and patterns in nature. My work tends to be more abstract, which I believe allows the audience more freedom to interpret their own ideas and thoughts. Sometimes in the past, familiar figures like birds and flowers have appeared, but I like the idea that my art isn't there to play a role. Art must exist on its own. My recent pointillism reminds me of undulating landscapes. I'm currently experimenting with more specific colors and shapes to connect with memories.
ET: As an abstract artist, what is your working process like and what are you harnessing when producing these work?
MS: Rather than being logical or measured, I approach painting with intuition and feeling, striking a balance between stillness and movement. During the process of creating I recall my past memories and sketch them. Sometimes I get color inspiration from movie scenes, patterns of species that exist in nature. I am constantly looking for inspiration. I am trying to present two opposing yet complementary bodies that celebrate maximalism and minimalism.
ET: What artists have influenced your work in the past and now in the present?
MS: In my early twenties my main medium was oil painting. I was really interested in German expressionism, well known artists such as, Emil Nolde, Georg Baselitz and Egon Schiele. Also the Bay Area figurative movement, such as Richard Diebenkorn and Joan Brown. Then, as I started my Masters program, my whole idea of painting changed. I experimented with many different ideas and materials. Now my painting style is more abstract, I still look at classical well known artists, Henry Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Marie Laurencin . There are so many people to look up to, and I don’t limit my genre only to 2-dimensional works. I want to expand my horizon looking at sculptors, textile designers and so on. Lately I have been looking into women artists such as Yuki Ogura, Ruth Asawa, and Louise Bourgeois.
ET: Your work has appeared all over the world — Asia, North America, Europe, Australia and even the Middle East. Currently you reside in Southern California. What has been your experience as an artist who has crossed many borders, and how has art connected you to the world?
MS: English is my second language, and I couldn't speak English that well when I started as an artist. However, through art I was able to stand on the same playing field as native speakers and was evaluated equally, which made me realize the ``unlimited possibilities'’ and “freedom" that art has. Having something to do with passion (creativity for me) is the greatest weapon, and I feel like I can break through anything and connect with people. I am very fortunate to be able to share my work around the world.