Tatzu Nishi Q + A

January 28, 2019Q + A

Nishi is based in Tokyo and Berlin.

Known for urban interventions using public monuments, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi was commissioned by Prefix to create Life’s Little Worries of Sir Adam Beck. It debuted in September 2018. PIA was one of its funders.

Why did you choose the Sir Adam Beck statue for your intervention?

I spent five days walking around the City of Toronto looking for public monuments and interesting architecture. I did not know about Adam Beck at all when I chose this monument, but I really liked the form of the statue. Also, I liked the location [University Ave. and Queen St. W.] because it’s in a really busy part of the city with many pedestrians and traffic. The reason I started to make public art was to reach a broader general audience rather than only art insiders. So this was a perfect site for me.

What surprised you most about Toronto and Canada during your research and planning?

Nishi’s urban intervention at University Ave. and Queen St. W. was part of Nuit Blanche 2018.

I saw so many Canadian flags everywhere in the city and in the airport, I was surprised by that. Also I was impressed by how large University of Toronto is.

When did you know you’d have a career in art?

That was when I was 19. I was preparing applications for art schools. But when I was four years old, I asked my parents to send me to a painting class.

What day jobs have you had?

It took a very long time before I could live as an artist, so I did many day jobs. I worked as a construction site guard, building caretaker, and I also worked in the kitchen of a sushi restaurant. I even did a clinical trial. I did not want to work near the art scene, as an installer or museum worker, for example.

What was your first successful creative act?

One of the first works I created in art school was a painting of two chairs with spray paint and oil. That was the first successful work I remember. Since then all the works I created have a solid theme and I consider them all successful.

How do you begin your day and what are your habits?

I travel to many cities in the world, but I wake up very early, like 5:30 a.m. anywhere I am. The first thing I do is check my email inbox. I am working in front of my computer pretty much all the time.

Which artists do you admire most? OR Which artists are your role models?

I admire van Gogh and Picasso, then Donald Judd, then from contemporary, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelly and Thomas Hirschhorn.

Which artists do you like that would surprise people?

I have been reading manga, Japanese comic books, since I was a small child. I am influenced by manga.

Which is more important, the process or result? Why?

Both. The process is important because new concepts and new ideas are necessary for new works. And the result is also important to see whether the concepts are successful once they become finished artworks.

What is your favourite colour? Your least favourite colour?

Change of scene: Nishi made a last minute colour change in 2011 for The Merlion installation in Singapore.

Pink is my favorite colour. Yellow is the least favorite one. I have a bad memory from yellow. For The Merlion Hotel in Singapore, I planned to use yellow wallpaper, but that was a huge mistake. After the installation I realized it did not work and it was just two days before the opening. So I had to ask them to take it all down and print brand new wallpaper with a different color and install all over again. Of course, I had to pay for the additional cost.

Who would you want to create your portrait?

David Hockney

What do you do if you need inspiration?

I don’t do any particular thing to get inspiration, but often I get most of my inspiration while I am riding trains, also while I am taking a shower in the morning.

What do you like to do when not making art?

I don’t have any time when I am not involved with art.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Beppu Contemporary Art Festival is a big art festival that used to commission around 100 artists. But instead, they changed their approach and started to commission only one artist. And in 2017, I was commissioned. I was able to achieve many different projects and works throughout the city. As a result, not only more people came to see the show, but I also got very strong critical reviews. Also, I received an award from Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan for this exhibition.

What is your greatest fear?

I often imagine the worst way of my death. I am in an airplane and my airplane crashes into the sea, but I survive. Then a shark approaches me and eats me.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

When young, you should take six months or one year and spend all the hours on only art creation, not doing anything else. Then you will see if you are good at it or not.

How did you hear about Partners in Art?

From their support for this art project. I really appreciate it.

Learn more about Tatzu Nishi’s work.