Hideki Iinuma is an amazing woodcarving artist from Japan. His fantastically carved figures of modern woman exhibit her delicate nature and strong will. He has won the Ernst Barlach Prize 2005 and his works have been widely exhibited around the world and is found in personal collections. The feminine spirit abundant in his work is all about the image and perception of women not only in Japanese society but throughout the world.
Iinuma makes his sculptures from camphor wood. The extensive presence of the plinth, cracks, knots, and tool marks in his work gives his work a fresh look and originality. His characters are engaged in worldly pursuits. They sometimes appear lost in thoughts and surroundings. Wish we could get more from this wonderful artist but the language barrier made it difficult, but we posed him some simple questions about his art and creativity and he got it translated by his staff. Here’s more from Hideki Iinuma:
I was born in Nagano, Japan in 1975. I currently live and work in Tokyo. After completing my study at Graduate School of Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in 1998, I entered Ecole Regionale des Beaux-Arts, Nantes (France) in 2002 and earned Diplome National d’Arts Plastiques. I took part in student exchange program (ERASMUS), which led me to study in Copenhagen (Denmark), Milan (Italy) and Karlsruhe (Germany).
When did you develop a keen interest in art?
I was brought up in nature where mountains over 3000m surrounded us. My father worked as a conductor of national railway connecting between Tokyo and my hometown. He once brought me a catalogue of exhibition of Picasso in Tokyo one day. “Picasso 1881-1973 : Exposition Commémorative du Centenaire de sa Naissance” in 1981, when I was 5 years old. Watching the catalogue, I copied the art many times. A poster of “Maternité sur Fond Blanc” in 1953 which was put on refrigerator at home was the very beginning of my interest in art.
I saw an exhibition of William Klein at Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris in 1999. I was totally puzzled over and wondered if the monochrome photos just scrawled with red and blue paint were art or not. At that time, I could not make my mind if I continue creating or not after 6 years’ art education in Japan. After deeply moved by freedom of expression of the photos in Paris, I decided that I would devote my life to art.
What does your art mean to you? Your artist’s statement?
I have been creating sculpture modelling on real models or on my imaginary models and then taking photos of those sculptures outside as my fieldwork / lifework since 1999. This trial and experiment was not merely valuable as photography but also was a creation of making brand new value in art and photography. Photography outside is an act of re-examination to realize what I would like to do. Sculptures and photography go side by side. Watching the developed photographs, I sometimes find the sculpture showing unexpected expression. Whenever I find such expression, I am always amused by the objectivity of the last process, taking photographs.
Small sculptures take me 1 or 2 weeks. Big size sculptures, one month. The most difficult thing is to conceive an idea and express it into the work. For my work, I take snapshots of people walking on the street, or I choose pictures of outfits and models that are appropriate for a sculpture from fashion magazines. I make an approximate drawing on the log, then I sculpt the wood, I color it and I take picture of it somewhere outside in the city.
The title of my very recent solo show was “6th Sense”. I would like to take spirituality corresponds to the art history into my works.
Is there something that challenges you as an artist?
To research about women from streets or fashion magazines, noting the aspects of gender and feminism and finding the differences of the recognition of history between Japan and other Asian countries sometimes gets challenging.
My work is a document that testifies about contemporary women through pictures and sculptures. It is the act of embodying the motif of transient fashion, a symbol of the contemporary society, into those primitive three-dimensional objects that are sculptures. I pursue the potentiality of sculpture as pure art because sculpture is an act of resistance against the information-oriented society ruled by the media; and I depict the huge conflict between the necessity for the women to play the role of femininity and the animal instinct.
Canon Digital camera, Contax Film Camera, 4×5 camera is the photography equipment. The kinds of wood I use are Japanese cypress, camphor, magnolia, cherry tree etc. Other tools include flat chisels from Kyoto, V-shaped chisels from Switzerland, grinder, Bosch drill, Stihl chainsaw and regular tools.
I get my inspiration from the women’s body and what makes the femininity, the bones structure, the beauty and the sensuousness of the body lines. My favorite artists are Izuru Kasahara, Tatsuo Majima, Satoru Aoyama, Futo Akiyoshi, Hideyuki, Sawayanagi, Go Watanabe, Michiro Tokushige, Kouich Enomoto, Kengo Kito, and Osamu Kokufu.
I also get inspiration from magazines and books like Numero magazine, Another Magazine, Vogue, Lula magazine, LOVE Magazine, W magazine, Vs Magazine, etc. I get motivated when I sit on the chair in my atelier even though I do not feel like working.
All images © Hideki Iinuma : Website