Interview: Hiroshi Kobayashi

Paper Mountain - June 19, 2018

This is an exerpt from an interview with RTRFM 92.1 on 25 May 2018.

What kind of ‘techniques’ you are using for your ‘painting practice’?

All images in my paintings are basically manipulated first on the computer using software, like Illustrator, Photoshop, or, more recently, 3D software and using a 3D scanning technique called photogrammetry. It’s still experimental for me but, Photogrammetry digitally generates 3D image from hundred of photos taken from 360 degrees around the subject.

This process is based on the concept of duplication of photographic image like photo realism, which is my previous style, but I transfer the images on the canvas in a more mechanical way, using masking sheets that are cut by a cutting machine called a plotter, and a self made squeegee device, and recently an electric dosing controller called a dispenser, through which a syringe feeds acrylic paint continuously onto the canvas.

I suppose my paintings are kind of assisted-readymade, which is the term that Marcel Duchamp once said ‘all art works are in a way assisted-readymade’, but I also think a positive side of medium of paintings, because it could be records or traces of production process, and they reflect the time and movement—although I prefer the term duration— in the process of making; and through this aspect of time, the work can become slightly different from the original digitised image.

All the preparation of devices and processes are for making this ‘slight difference’ between the digitised image and the resulting painting. It is more important for me to create this subtle difference, than to create so-called shock value, and that’s why I used the title of ‘Thin gas is in a pit’ which is an anagram of ‘this is a painting’.

You have exhibited in Asia, Europe and in the United States; how do you think art differs in Australia, particularly in Perth?

I feel that we, artists, share the same basic knowledge about art history, art theory and also strategy to survive as an artist, thanks to the modern academic system and easier access to information. Partly because of that, there are diverse styles that coexist in different countries, but have similarities. But the emphasis could be different. In Japan, I might have been influenced by a style of labour-intensive representational paintings. In Perth, in my eyes, there are preferences toward geometric abstraction and formalism in paintings. And also there is a straightforward use of industrial materials for art making. It seems to me those are reinterpretations of 60’s art, but in a way, they are different from the condition of culture and visual art in Japan, and also have affected my work, changing it recently in a positive way.

How did you become interested in working with, and pushing the boundaries of grids? 

The idea of grids was foregrounded by formalistic analysis towards the flat surface of painting. It defines painting as an object rather than an illusion of depth, and the grids are said to be a reduction of a painting’s quality. But in my personal view, the focus on the flatness of painting is derived mainly from the phenomenological aspect of photography and strongly associated with industrial products. So I see the grids as a sort of readymade to assist, and I could play with them to create even the illusion of depth of a 3D image that once was totally removed from formalist paintings.

This work represents a change in direction for you. Can you tell us a bit about how this change came about?

After moving to Perth and working in residencies, as I said, I have been directly or indirectly influenced by the condition of visual modes here, and the major change is, I think, is the positive use of technology or devices, which were less visible in my previous representational paintings. One of the reasons for the change is because when there was an open studio at the residency in Fremantle, people reacted more curiously to my devices rather than what is represented in painting. I thought this reaction or inquisitiveness toward technology seemed natural, and it could be a universal sense when experiencing art work in this digitally-connected environment.

But still, while I use electric devices in my process, I personally see many possibilities in manual paintings from the movements of early 20th modernism; like the concept of time in Cubism. When you talk about representing time, it sounds it could be more suitable for time-based media like video or movie, but I feel the time represented in painting is not an linear extension of frames, but rather a crystallisation of duration, and it’s much closer to the conception of time within human perception. That must be the main reason I still work in painting.

Hiroshi Kobayashi’s show Thin gas is in a pit (This is a painting) exhibited at Paper Mountain from 18 – 30 May 2018.