Tell me about the show.
Well, we were staying in Vermont for a month, in the forest, out in nature, and there was a little stream where I would mix the paint with the water from the stream to make the works. It was really fun.
Where are you from originally?
Japan, but I’m based in New York now. I moved here 15 years before my daughter was born, and when I was pregnant, I went back to Japan to have my first baby. And after that, we’ve been traveling.
How would you define your style as a painter?
Rubbery hand, maybe? Or comedy. Something like life—it’s hard to explain.
Comedy, I love that.
I’m from a comedy town—Osaka. They have a comedy university. I didn’t go there, but people go there and become comedians, goofy people.
Your work definitely makes me smile, especially the cats. Do you have any cats?
No—maybe my imaginary cats.
Do you think of yourself as a Japanese painter?
I was born there, but I traveled after going to art school. I’ve explored many countries. Maybe I have a Japanese comedy soul, but visually, the colors, I don’t know if that’s from my country.
Do you feel like it has a cartoon aspect, like anime?
I only watch a couple of cartoons. I love cartoons, but I don’t really get into them—I don’t read Manga or anything.
Above: 'Chinatown Cat' and 'Fluffy Date.'
Do you watch cartoons with your little girl?
We have no TV—for over ten years.
I don’t know. I watch some stuff sometimes online, but without a TV, we can do more creative stuff. I think TV is also fun, though.
So, you were staying in Vermont. How did that affect your work?
It was very nice—the nature, the wild. And in the nighttime, you couldn’t see anything, only by moonlight. That’s amazing. It gave me a free mind just to paint, nothing else, which is very amazing.
Was it really quiet at night, like almost scary quiet?
Actually, it wasn’t scary at all. It was very peaceful. I didn’t see anything crazy—I just saw lots of animals and nature.
It seems like animals are really important to you.
There are so many hairy, goofy, cute animals. I like hairy animals. Hair makes them more goofy.
What kind of animals do you like?
It could be a camel, a panda—it would be nice to have a panda in your apartment, right? Sitting on the couch, hanging out.
Do you ever come up with names for them?
Do they have stories?
These are just moments from their whole lives—their whole stories.
Do you feel like your daughter has had an effect on your work?
I think so. She told me yesterday, I asked her, 'What do you like to do?' and she said she likes painting but she’s more interested in singing and dancing. We were listening to The Beatles at the time, and she wanted to go to a live show, but I had to explain to her that John—you can’t see him anymore. She said, 'Maybe I’ll make music with Paul.'
Above: 'Comb Out Hair' and 'Flower Candy.'
Your work has a lot of movement in it.
I think action is kind of fun. I like Jackie Chan—I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan for a long time. He’s awesome.
So, there’s an element of karate?
Maybe—it’s something I like, so it could be a part of it. But naturally, it comes out in the work.
Do you study martial arts?
Not really, but actually tonight, I’m going to go see Xiao Ling Kung Fu.
Is that a live thing?
Yeah, my friend is in the class, and tonight the master is doing a demonstration, and the one master came from China and he has his own dojo. I’m very curious. And actually, when I was little, I studied Kendo, a Japanese martial art. I just picked Kendo—I don’t know why. My mom gave me a catalogue in the first grade and told me to pick something, anything I wanted. It was all sports, like karate or judo, or soccer—all kinds, like a YMCA catalogue. I don’t know why, somehow I just chose Kendo.
Do you feel like your animals are doing Kendo and karate?
Yeah, they’re very wild. You don’t want to get too close. But they know us. They’re just playing—they look wild, but their friendly.
Cover image: 'Preppy Meow;' all images courtesy of the gallery.
'Pine Cone Times' will be on view at The Hole through November 11, 2018.