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Interview with Chiézo, Japanese Artist

November 7, 2007
Artist Chiézo at Gala Corina 2007

Working with Gala Corina this year, I was fortunate to meet the delightful young artist Chiézo, who came from Japan to exhibit in and participate in the show.

Chiézo’s fiance Kentaro Amagai has been her constant companion and interpreter. On Monday evening Chiézo even gave a talk (with a little help from Kentaro) about her work during Brava’s annual “jpeg jam.” The two of them have been at the site working nonstop, and this evening they were planning to help out with gallery hours.

Since we had no time to really sit and talk throughout this massive undertaking, and since I had what seemed like a million questions I wanted to ask her, I decided to interview Chiézo online while both of us were taking short breaks between events.

I asked about Chéizo’s artist name. Kentaro explains:

Her real name is Chie Tanaka. “Tanaka” is very common family name, so too many same name. She doesn’t like that and she have used “Chiézo” as artist name. By the way, her real first name; “Chie”, means “thousand of pictures”. “chi” means “thousand” and “e” means “picture”. Named by her mother who is also an artist and hoping that her daughter would make many many pictures in her ife.

Q : When did you first know that you were an artist?

A : Probably when I won 1st place award at Tokyo Setagaya district’s child picture contest. I was 4 years old then. The picture itself was lost unfortunately, but I remember I drew an old Buddhistic temple.

Q : Were you encouraged to express yourself artistically as a child,
both at home and in school?

A : I wanted to learn drawings and paintings when I was a little girl, but my older sister already did it. Instead, my mother encouraged me to learn piano. My mother thought that I might need something else for myself and my life as a painter because I have been always drawing something everyday everywhere. Actually, I’ve drawn some even on a piano score! My piano teacher was staggering and told me I should learn rather paintings not piano.

Q : Is art an important part of elementary and junior high school
education in Japan?

A : Not at all. Art education in Japan is like a making “copy machines”. They tell children to make exact copy of a subject such as fruits or buildings. Not encourage children’s imagination and originality. My grades for art during the schools were very very bad, so I was disappointed for my ability as an artist. Maybe my artworks were too imaginative in Japanese art education. That made me decide NOT to go to an art direction for my college education. I almost gave up to be an artist at that time and chose a business major ridiculously.

Q : At what stage of your schooling did you begin to concentrate your art studies?

A : My serious start of art study was late. After the graduate of the college, I just began to work for a big company in Tokyo like every other girls did, but soon I knew it was a wrong decision. I have worked for the company for two years and saved some money. With those money, I started traveling many countries, which motivated me to concentrate to study art seriously. I entered a famous private art school at age 25 and learned basic drawing techniques there. Even in the art school, my artworks were different from the other students’ , but this time it did not make me disappointed. Rather it helped me to build up my confidence as an artist.

Q : What artists, past and present, inspire you?

A : Many. Klee for rhythm, Chagall for colors, Rembrandt for lights and shadows, Dali for imaginations, and Picasso for everything together. I also love Osamu Tezuka’s animations such as “Astroboy” and “Jungle Emperor Leo”. And movies like Ray Harryhausen’s and Tim Burton’s are my favorites.

Q : Though your imagery begins with very traditional stories and beings, you have made these very fresh and new. Do you plan to continue this series? What other subjects interest you?

A : I like myth and old stories around the world. Though those have been always stimulative to me, there are my own stories and the worlds emerging inside of me now. I’d like to output those as fast as my imagination works.

Q : How much would you say you are influenced by pop culture in your art?

A : I do not feel I’m influenced by so-called pop culture, but I admit I have grown up surrounded by them. I love the things most children like, and dislike the things children don’t like. I know I’m a littile childish but I can not help! I love HAPPY stuff.

Q : Do you work in media other than your current digitally created work?

A : Yes, digital creation is just a part. I’m working on the other traditional media such as acrylic on canvas, copper print, clayboard, and sculpture. Originally, I started using computer graphics program; Adobe Illustrator which is my only digital tool, for my assignment jobs such as magazines because it is easy to change. I don’t use the software’s filters and stuff anyway. I draw and paint by freehand brush strokes with Wacom tablet, so to me there is no big difference between digital and non-digital. I think the good thing about working digitally is further possibilities for future. Making some animations with my own past works would be very nice!

Q : How did you find out about Gala Corina?

A : I knew Gala Corina 3 years ago because I visit Tampa area once a year basis, but had no chance to see. This is my first time experience for both visitor and artist. I’m excited!

Q : What future exhibitions are you preparing for? Will you have those on your website?

A : A couple of shows are on going for 2008, though the details are not yet announced. My website will be renewed soon. I’m sure it will have my blog. It is going to be bilingual site, which is the toughest part.

Q : Where would you like to be as an artist in twenty years?

A : My first priority is a happy life with my family, so where we can live in good health and happiness must be the place I would be. I like blue ocean and big sky. I love nature rather than city. Tokyo is exciting and stimulative big city and one of the best place for business, but the city exhausts me. In Japan, I currently live in a beach community close to Tokyo. It is just like Clearwater or St.Pete. I know my work is getting better with the power from the nature.

Visit Chiézo’s website for more about this artist and her work.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2007 12:30 pm

    Marvelous interview, Marsha, with a most interesting artist. Have to say, you make me tired with all you do! Such motivation!

  2. Alaleh permalink
    November 8, 2007 6:20 pm

    an interesting interview.

  3. Parapluie permalink
    November 11, 2007 1:57 am

    I also marvel at Cheizo’s blog. The Japanese writing just plays beautifully with the brightly colored images. Interesting interview.

  4. kim permalink
    November 12, 2007 7:29 pm

    Loved the interview, Martha. Looking forward to many more. kim

  5. Angela permalink
    November 13, 2007 12:39 am

    WOW! What a wonderful interview Martha! Her work is just amazing! Thanks for sharing with us! *HUGS*

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