New York, the frontline of art. There, lives an art enthusiastic student away from his home country. His name, Hayate Hosenji. In today’s interview, we asked him from his encounter with art, to the walls he faced in his productions, about the American art scene, and his vision on his future.

Hayate Hosenji Inteview teaser

Once left the scene

 ──To begin with, could you tell us about your current activities?

Hosenji Currently, I’m engaged in art production while attending a university in New York. I used to work as an assistant or participate in internships when I just came to the city, but recently I’ve been working mainly on my own art production.

 ──What was it that made you step into the field of art?

Hosenji Since my mum was a fashion designer, I had a lot of contact with “art” from a young age. That influenced me to grow an interest in drawing by the time I was in about 1st grade in elementary school and led me to start attending drawing classes held near my house.

 ──Ok. So, have you always stuck with art since then?

Hosenji No, actually. I haven’t drawn a single piece when I was in middle school. In the last competition I entered in 6th grade, despite having quite some confidence in it, my piece didn’t manage to get any awards. Since earning a “result” was my motivation then, the event was enough to scrap my enthusiasm. Initially when I started drawing, I drew simply because I was having fun, and because I loved the feeling of diving into my work. But after starting to get involved in competitions, I developed a feeling of pleasure towards the recognition from the adults around me, and I guess that had become my objective at the time, unfortunately.

 ──What made you come back to drawing?

Hosenji When I won an award at a competition when I was in 5th grade, I was given an opportunity to fly to Australia. And upon the members that went together, there was a kid who played the ukulele. After arriving, we were touring around some spots, and although I did take my works with me, I spent the time mainly just enjoying myself. However, the ukulele kid kept on introducing himself to people wherever we went, with his humble English, playing his instrument, handing out cards with his name written, asking people to check out his YouTube channel. And I was just shocked to see a kid of about the same age of me with such passion, trying not to let any small chance get away from him. Even in my days in middle school when I hadn’t been drawing, I kept checking out on him, and I felt that I haven’t moved forward a single bit, while he was steadily, but definitely advancing. When I entered high school, I felt that I couldn’t be falling behind any longer, and that I wanted to try again. That’s how I came back to drawing.

 ──What kind of drawings did you work on?

Hosenji In elementary school, I loved artists like Picasso and Taro Okamoto, so I have done some copying of their pieces, but mainly I drew originally, without thinking much. After I entered high school, I went to art classes after school almost every day, working on techniques and learning about drawing, to enter an art college/university.

 ──I have an image that many artists have some kind of natural talent. Could you tell us if you’ve had any episodes of hardship or efforts put in, in terms of drawing?

Hosenji When I was in high school, there was an audition held by Sony Music and NYLON JAPAN, and I had the chance to present my own work and receive feedback directly from the judges. There, I showed them a piece from when I was in elementary school, and a piece from high school. And very frankly, I was told that the former was interesting, and that the other was just boring. I was shocked, but I was kind of able to understand what they meant. My drawings from high school were filled with superficial tricks and were merely repetitive processes, drawing things I already knew. I didn’t have any feeling of creating something new, nor was I having any fun. While when I was younger, I just drew plainly out of fun, which made the pieces interesting. Since then, I felt that I wanted to draw more instinctively, and more improvised, so I did things like drawing a piece everyday, without thinking about anything.

A place called New York

 ──You mentioned earlier about attending art classes to enter an art college/university. What was is that made you make the choice of moving to New York, instead of entering such universities?

Hosenji Well, one reason is that I didn’t have any desire to enter a Japanese university, and another is that I had doubts on whether “art” was something one should “learn” at a university. But the main reason I guess, was that I just had a strong urge to fly out, overseas.

 ──Is New York actually the frontline of art?

Hosenji I think so, yes. I’ve been to one of the world’s largest art fair called the Armory show, and there, awesome artworks from around the world gather, and hundreds of millions of dollars are traded. And I felt, this is it, this is “art”. Also, where I live, is a part called Bushwick, in Brooklyn, and it’s a place where a lot of artists hold their studios. Once every year, there’s an event called the “Bushwick Open Studios”, where artists open their studios for the public, and artworks are traded. Witnessing the lives of real artists, I realized that a life as an artist is something that actually exists. In Japan, it felt like being an artist, as a career, was seen as something with remarkably high risk, and often looked away from

 ──Are there any differences regarding the art scene in Japan and America?

Hosenji I feel like I’m in no position to speak on such a topic (*laughs humbly*), but I do have personal opinions considering the issue. In Japan, many people tell me that my style is something “new”. However, in the states, my style is no more than ordinary, and the best reaction I can get out of people would be something about the quality of my pieces reaching a certain degree. I thought about why such a difference appears, and, this is only a guess, but I came to think that the reason is because of how the Japanese often go to museums, but don’t really have a habit of visiting art galleries. A museum is somewhere that exhibits the “history of art”, whereas a gallery is somewhere to see the “current form of art”. As a fact, compared to New York, Japan has fewer galleries, and I think that there’s a difference in terms of the familiarity that people have with the “current form of art”.

Approaching through art

 ──Was there any person or content that influenced you and/or your activities?

Hosenji Once, on a documentary on TV, I saw the dancer Koharu Sugawara saying, “When you really enjoy something from your heart, it’s reflected in the audience”. Later, I had an occasion where I encountered such an experience. I like jazz, and I go listen to it pretty often. One time, I was at a live show of the jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara, and when she moved her body, the audience swung with her, and when she laughed, the audience smiled with her. As if the hearts of the whole crowd were just taken over by her. When I saw that, I felt strongly that this was the kind of creation I was aiming for.

As for a content, I was shocked by the work of “teamLab”, and they were the first artists that gave me goose bumps. Until then, I only paid close attention to art in the form of a single piece of drawing, so the creation of art in the form of “space” and “area”, and the feeling of immersion they produced by letting the people experience their creation, were elements that were extremely fresh for me.

 ──Could you tell us your vision on your own future?

Hosenji I had half a year between graduating high school and flying to the states, and in that period, I participated in an internship at an education related company, and through that experience, I came to really love education. Then, I realized that I was able to like something apart from “art”, and I grew a passion on approaching education from the perspective of arts.

In terms of how, I don’t intend to stick with drawing single pieces of art like I do at the moment. More like, I want to gather a bunch of people and form a larger project, kind of like teamLab. I’m aiming to create something that can offer an “experience”.

 ──Lastly, can we ask your thoughts on the question, “what is culture”?

Hosenji I think it’s something that seems unrelated to the basic needs of human life (food, clothing and shelter), but at the same time, is immensely significant in our lives. In fact, things like music and visual arts aren’t minimum qualities that are needed for a human to survive, but still exist since ancient times. To add to that, they continue until today without ceasing, and with an established market, and I think that’s enough to say that art is something that plays a key role in our lives.

 ──Thank you very much.

In this interview, the young artist stated that he was not satisfied with his work at all. From there, we could see the underlying struggle he carries only because of how seriously he faced with “art”. In a field continuously filled with the demand for something new, the artist aspires to use “experience”, something he had once been moved by, as his weapon to confront the frontier of art. Now it’s his turn, to give us, an experience.

Interviewer: Taiki Tsujimoto
Composition: Nozomi Tanaka
English Translation: Yutaro Taniguchi