It has been 20 years since Makoto Aida made his debut in the early 1990s. He has received support from his fans particularly the young as one of the pioneers of contemporary art like Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. His first large-scale solo exhibition ‘Monument for Nothing’ is now on at Mori Art Museum in Roppongi. The exhibition shows the artist himself presenting pretty young girls, businessmen, battle pictures, cartoons and red lanterns. We asked him about his new works at his studio.
―Rice-ball Mask Man is one of your original characters in your artworks. What inspired you to come up with this idea?
Aida: That is the mysterious character that I came up with in my brain when I attended to an event of live painting and wondered what to draw.
―In your picture book, you say “Rice-ball Mask Man is probably a part of myself”.
Aida: When I created a headgear of the character to shoot a video after I made its painting, it naturally got a lazy personality. A half of me is lazy, and the other half is Japanese who try hard on anything, in a bad way. Japanese people apparently used to be lazier before Edo period or so; however, people tried harder after the Meiji Restoration and it last until high economic growth and the collapse of the bubble economy. Seriously speaking, I made Rice-ball Mask Man lazy as I thought that I have to reconsider Japanese society with a long time span of 100 or 200 years.
―Is ‘The Non-Thinker’ based on The Thinker by Rodin?
Aida: Yes, and it is a mix with Yayoi Buddhist saint, too. Yayoi Buddhist saint probably is thinking with compassion, but it looks like just spacing out in a way. When I had to describe Rice-ball Mask Man, I came up with a word ‘idleness’. A dictionary says that it also means enlightenment of Buddha, a state of enlightenment to achieve, and eliminating artificial stuff. That probably means doing nothing. And I concluded that the concept was ‘idleness’ in the end because it was close to what Rice-ball Mask Man wanted to achieve. Well, everything is what I made up afterwards, though!
I think both a hard worker and a lazy man are important to keep a balance between them just like Tiger and Dragon.
―Does your work ‘Gray Mountain’ with tons of gray-suited business men piled up have the similar concept as well?
Aida: Partially, yes. But the motive to make this work is my sense of inferiority not to have an honest business like them as a citizen, rather than judging them from a higher level. Instead of wearing a suit, painting gray-suited businessmen seems to keep a balance in me. I painted this wondering if I could achieve something with this ascetic practice of painting them as a motif.
―Young girls in Jumble of 100 Flowers are shot and some flowers and strawberries pop out from their wounds. Your works seem to be changed a lot from your series of ‘Dog’ (1989~) that girls have their arms and legs cut and bleed from the wounds.
Aida: ‘Dog’ is a series when I was a student before the debut. I wanted to sort of rebel my school, and created shocking works to be disliked by others. It probably established as my personality by now. This is my basic state of mind; however, I want to show my works at a normal hall such as a museum. It does not really mean that I was delighted to have an R-18 room for this exhibition, but I just wanted to make Jumble of 100 Flowers a world of video games so I can show it to children as well. The young and even I are insensible to the stimulus of video games and movies with special effect. I wanted to show the reality itself such as video games that you kill zombies, pachinko balls jingling running down, people squandering ridiculously for amusements, and capitalism that people keep wasting. If I could express that kind of stuff that people keep wasting following their desire… I do not know what it will be, though. I am not trying to enlighten or something, even though I am not sure what I am working for. It might be good to look for a good side of this society, but I vaguely think that rather a bad side or a problem is what I want to focus on.
Higher Level Obtained Through Enduring Stress
―A documentary film ‘A I D A: A Natural-Born Artist’ now showing has an impressive scene; when your son, Torajiro, tells you that he did not paint in school, you tell him that he can put any color wherever he likes.
Aida: But it is inconsistent with my works. I always wonder why I build up stress to force myself to obey a rule that I made even though I started to paint by choice. Well, I like paintings that children draw freely, too. But I usually feel that there would be something higher that I could achieve when I bear stress I built.
―That is a mysterious irony.
Aida: It also might be my wish. I have a brief figure of artist that I want to be in future and works that I want to make when I get older, which is totally limp, free from stress and expressing like the brain is melting!
(At the studio in Yokohama on Oct 30, 2012)
*This article is the extraction of December issue of ARTcollectors’ 2012