A Melbourne-based artist originally from Japan, Kubota Fumikazu’s work includes very intricate, hand drawn forms, depicting different aspects of the human psyche, and more recently, the introduction of colours and new materials. The results are striking: dark and playful, chaotic and precise, recognisable and surreal. With a joint exhibition with artist Yuna Chun currently on at Fort Delta in Capitol Arcade, Melbourne, Jenni Kauppi talks to Kubota about his art and practice.
Kubota Fumikazu, Entrance
How long have you been in Australia and what brought you here from Japan?
I came to Australia back in 2003 with working holiday visa. I was going to be here for a year or less, but while I was driving/camping/fruit picking with myself around East of Australia, from Brisbane to the top end then crossing down to Adelaide and then Melbourne, my brain started twisting somehow. I lost all sense of who I was. I guess I spent too much time with myself and I couldn’t stop myself analyzing my life without getting any clear answers or directions. Then it became too much and started making me crazy. It made me want to stay away from my country, rather than I want to stay in this country. So there was nothing bringing me down here and there was nothing bringing me back to where I came from either.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I was like most artists. I spent my childhood drawing on any surface I could, but I never thought about “being an artist” until 2011… My dentist told me I still have a baby tooth, so I guess I am a slow starter.
What does an average day look like for you?
I wake up around 8 and have a coffee and shower then work [as a graphic designer] until 5ish, then go to my studio until 7-8. Bed by 10. Exciting.
Does Japanese art and culture influence your work?
Probably yes, but maybe no. I spent 26 years in Japan so I guess they are in me, but I have never really thought about it.
Your work from your exhibitions a few years ago, like (Un)fortunately No Longer Human and Between These Things and Those Things in 2012 focus on illustrative works on paper, while the new works at your current show are quite different, in terms of materials etc. How did that come about?
I started drawing on paper in 2007 and I became so obsessed about lines and patterns. After I did my solo show at Blindside ARI in 2012, I thought I could create more work in the same style but it will be a similar work again. I guess I was bored doing it. So I decided to go to university to study about it. I had never studied art and never been to university in my life. It was a one year post-grad course and I discovered colour pigments in my work and how to see things around me.
Kubota Fumikazu, Home.
In an essay by Claire Anna Watson on your website, she talks about the connection between your work and the novel No Longer Human, a Japanese equivalent to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. How did this influence you and what are your other influences; books or otherwise?
This famous novel captured the fear of a man who cannot be himself in front of others, and wondering how others deal with it. I read it when I was young and I didn’t get it, however, when I was having difficulty breaking through barriers between myself and others a few years back, I re-read it, and found if I put my darkness out there, it can help my mind. Nowadays, my influences are from everyday life such as cityscapes, Victorian buildings, cars, trams, electric poles and anything with sharp edges.
There’s something almost mathematical about the precision in your work, the patterns and the perspective – even a hint of M.C Escher, especially his impossible constructions and his Metamorphosis series. Is there something mathematical or computer-driven in your work?
I am not good at mathematics but I like it. It gives me an answer for something and it cannot be disputed. When I found how to draw ellipse mathematically correct, I was so happy. I guess my graphic designer background helps me a lot too. (I worked in a graphic design studio in Japan before I came to Australia for about six years)
Describe what your workspace looks like.
I guess it is pretty organized. T-squares, many rulers, compasses and masking tapes… they surround me in good order.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Trying to make sure all lines are dead straight and where surface of paint needs to be dead smooth, I easily lose myself in it.
Early bird, or night owl?
I cannot get up early but I cannot stay up late either.
What was your favourite album when you were 15?
It was first album by The Specials [self-titled].
What’s your favourite place in Melbourne?
In my bed.
Kubota Fumikazu (Pic: Linda Wachtel)
By Jenni Kauppi