Actor Ukon Onoe is a rising star in Japan in the prestigious world of Kabuki, the classic theatrical genre marked by elaborate costumes, highly stylized performances and the distinctive makeup of its performers.
Coming from a family of Kabuki performers, the 30-year-old Tokyo-based actor has been performing since he was 7 years old. Actor.
Ukon recently visited the studio of another rising star in the Japanese art world, Yukimasa Ida. Ida is a 31-year-old contemporary artist who works mainly in painting, sculpture and printmaking. Like Ukon, Ida also comes from a family of artists. Her father, Katsumi Ida, is a well-known sculptor in Japan.
ARTnews Japan joined Ukon and Ida in the painter’s gymnasium-sized studio to record a passionate conversation between the two young artists, covering everything from their family to their creative mindset:
The following exposition has been translated and edited for clarity and length.
Ukon: It is a very spacious and cool studio. Among them, this painting on the back [pictured in the photo above] is a stunner in terms of size and presence.
Ida: The painting was completed last year at the request of Mr. Yusaku Maezawa. I had a theme that I had wanted to paint for a long time, and he told me I could do whatever I wanted, so I let myself be painted as the culmination of my 20s. Then he said, “You really did what you wanted.”
Ukon: Even at this size, are you suddenly drawing it full size?
Ida: I made a blueprint and painted this based on it. Inspired by “The Painter’s Studio” by Courbet, it depicts the world of death and the world of the living. I’m the one holding the brush here, and the blank canvas is the future. I painted from start to finish and in the end it took me three years.
Ukon: Three years! Do you sometimes not take requests?
Ida: Of course there are. I will talk with the client about various things as long as they allow me to do what I want to do. I don’t want to leave behind anything with half-baked vibes, because my work will stay forever, and it will come out into the world as my expression.
Ukon: It’s very different from the expression I do. A live scene is something that does not remain. The character “En(演）” in the word “Acting” is written “Tiger(寅)” in “Sanzui(氵)”, right?
The job is to draw a tiger on the water, so no matter how heroic the tiger is, it will soon disappear. In other words, it’s like creating an atmosphere, and even if a performance of Kabuki is preserved on film, that atmosphere can only be felt by those who saw it that day in the theater.
I feel like every performance is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
Ida: Once in a lifetime, isn’t that a nice word? I have always used the concept of “once in a lifetime” in my work. I want to express a moment that will never happen again.
Ukon: Ida-san, your father is the sculptor Katsumi Ida. What influence do you think your father had on you?
Ida: I used to play in my dad’s studio when I was little, and watch him create, so I think there’s definitely an influence. But there was a time when it was a complex. Everywhere I went, my father’s name came up, and I really hated it. But after doing a lot of research on my father and his family history, I was convinced and came to respect him. Respect the rebellion. Then I started to feel more comfortable and I thought, “I just have to live my life.” The complex was also a driving force, and I was able to find a kind of courage and passion in my own way.
Ukon: The environment affects us much more deeply than we realize. I tried a lot of different things, but in the end I feel like Kabuki is the best fit for me because of the power of the environment that fueled my senses and my way of thinking.
Ida: Ukon-san seems to be much more involved with his family than me. The world of traditional performing arts is, in a sense, a particular or different world from the general public.
Ukon: Of all the special worlds, ours is an even more special case. My great-grandfather was a Kabuki actor named Onoe Kikugoro VI, and his daughter, my grandmother, married into a Kabuki music family called Kiyomoto. So, although I was born into a family of Kabuki actors, I was not born into a family of Kabuki actors.
Ida: I see.
Ukon: Then, when I was little, I was fascinated by the images of my great-grandfather’s kabuki performances that I saw at my grandmother’s house, and I expressed my desire to become a kabuki actor. And when I was allowed to go on stage for the first time, thanks to the people around me who wanted to give me an experience, I fell even more in love with the role. During my teenage years, it was very difficult for me because of the tension between my father and me.
Ida: Likewise, when I was still an art student, we argued about art every time I came home. My dad was a senior who had been in the art world for decades, so I think he was like, “I’m not going to accept you that easily.” But today, we get along well and my father often says to me: “We are a family, but I never considered you as my son. I take that to mean he sees me as an artist and that’s a compliment to me.
Ukon: When did you start painting seriously?
Ida: I was 16 years old. There was a time when I hated painting. But with the help of my father’s words, I learned to think about painting and started to appreciate it. I failed my college entrance exams several times, but as I studied in frustration, I also realized the pleasure of painting. Between my story of perseverance and my story of realizing the appeal of painting, I kind of got totally absorbed in painting and started thinking that I was going to be a painter.
Ukon: Where do you draw your inspiration for your works?
Ida: It’s on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes I have a stock of images of what I want to create, so I use those images, and sometimes I just go with the flow when I want to express the atmosphere I felt on my trip. Abstract paintings are the result of still unclear images, thoughts and concepts.
On the other hand, if I have a clear image, I render it clearly. When it comes to people’s motifs, I mainly paint people who have influenced me. So there are people who are close to me, and there are people who have changed the world.
Ukon: You mentioned earlier that painting Yusaku Maezawa took about three years. Isn’t it hard to keep the idea you had when you started a painting until you finish it, as time goes by and a lot of things change?
Maybe I feel this because I am working myself to etch the vibrations of the day into the scene of this day.
Ida: I believe that our initial thoughts and feelings change. As I draw, I change myself, and I always think the present self is best, so if that “present” isn’t used in the artwork, there’s no point in using it. to design.
Ukon: Where do you make the decision to say, “Well, that’s it.”
Ida: The painting says: “Do not paint anymore”.
Ukon: Oh my!
Ida: I often call it the “mass” of an array. When a certain amount of information or emotion is loaded onto a board and it reaches its mass, something that has never existed in the world before comes to me with a thud and a sound like a presence solid. At this moment, the brush stops. I can no longer put my hand. It’s weird to say that, because I sound like I’m praising myself, but there’s a feeling of awe that comes over me when it happens.
Ukon: Recently, I felt like “good/bad” depends on whether or not I’m into it. Of course, objectivity is important, and I think it’s also important to express yourself better through experience, but I like myself best when I’m engrossed in my work, whether it’s bad or not. .
Ida: I think the balance between the two is an eternal problem for expressive people. As one becomes more proficient, something is inevitably lost. However, I believe that a true professional must be absolutely skilled. When I look at Katsushika Hokusai’s prints, he is technically very good, but I wonder how much he devoted himself to his work. I think it’s amazing how crazy and immersed he was in his work when he drew it.
Ukon: By the way, in the area where the large wood carvings were placed, I saw a painting based on the photo of an actor from Sharaku.
Ida: I painted it as a little experiment. I tried printmaking to broaden my horizons, and just recently got interested in ukiyoe and other classic Japanese works. Three-dimensional woodcarving is also something I started doing as an extension of printmaking.
Ukon: You always stimulate yourself by trying lots of new things.
Ida: I would cherish the ability to be amused at all times. We are planning to build a studio overseas, and it is also from this feeling. Ah, I recently joined Chicago-based Marian Ibrahim. I was a little put off by the idea of belonging to a gallery, so I started my own business, but I came to think that other forces are important too.
I thought that by being exposed to the opinions and values of people other than myself, I would come to a different awareness, which would lead to a reinterpretation of my own. I’ve grown up a bit and I’m finally ready to listen to other people’s opinions. It was at this time in my life that I was able to have an intense conversation with you, and I had a lot of fun today.
Ukon: Thank you very much for a nice time. My great-grandfather, Onoe Kikugoro VI, was friends with Yokoyama Taikan. Taikan said to him, “I envy you. Even if you make a mistake on stage, only the audience will see it that day, right? In my case, even a painting that I thought was bad could be loved and exhibited for a long time. It’s hard to stay in shape.” Then Onoe Kikugoro VI replied, “No, it can be rendered, but no matter how good my piece is, only the audience on that day will be able to see it.
I envy painters whose good works will last forever. There’s an episode where they were like, “We’re both in causation.”
Ida: Beautiful story.
Ukon: I would like to have this kind of conversation with you, at the end of my life!