"I don’t think my work has any borders"
Ahead of Teiji Hayama's highly anticipated solo show FAME, which opens at Unit London on Thursday evening, we sat down with the Japanse artist to discuss notions of contemporary celebrity across the globe and elucidate the show's conceptual grounding. Tickets are available here for Thursday's private view. Hope to see U there!
UL How do you pick your subjects? Is there anything in particular about these celebrities which stands out to you?
TH They are some of the most iconic celebrities that any generation can immediately recognise.
UL Are you a fan of classic Hollywood films?
TH I'm a cinephile of any genre and time period.
UL Historically, celebrity has been a western notion, could you see yourself painting an Asian celebrity? Is the idea of fame changing in the east?
TH Totally, some Asian celebrities are actually already on my list for this year... Celebrity fan culture in Asia is highly vibrant. Fueled by the explosive growth in the popularity of Chinese and Korean superstars across the region and beyond. Celebrity fan culture is turning into a unique worldwide phenomenon.
UL Do you think these works are more at home in the west? Or could they be shown with equal success around the world?
TH I don’t think my work has any borders. Aspirations for stardom have been prevalent since fame itself existed, but the perceived ease of which this fame is achieved in today’s age creates a sometimes toxic desire to focus one’s efforts almost exclusively on achieving a high level of social celebrity. At almost any cost.
UL Why do you think your work has so little colour? What do you think the small amounts of colour in the paintings achieve?
TH So many people disconnected from their own life by trying so hard to keep up with everyone else. Social media has completely transformed a range of our life experiences. Ironically, by sharing moments on social media, by engaging with social media, you lose the moment. Let’s say “Reality“ would be represented with colors, disconnecting from your reality and the people in it is represented by me using a grey palette, I think this is fitting as some people are just a shadow of their former self.
UL There is a strong focus on the eyes in many of the pieces, they are either prominent or erased. Could you elaborate on this?
TH Yes, I have always been obsessed with eyes, they reflect everything that seems to be hidden. I sometimes work on figurative subjects without eyes, the face becomes a mirror and reflects the person looking into it, allowing a discussion.
UL Only two paintings in the exhibition are not portraits, why did you move away from the figurative for these?
TH I’ve been working on still life for a while actually and I feel that they are very linked to the portraits. There is a strong relationship between the still life and the identity of the personages. For instance, Instant Food refers to fast food but not only, easy to consume, fast, immediately satisfying. This phone burger could be compared to any social media. Phones are represented in all of my still life, permanently online, permanently connected, how many people have ever thought of going on a social media diet?
UL The paintings take well known celebrities and distort their appearance, why do you think this distortion is important?
TH Because it reveals how social media has overburdened them.
UL How would you feel about becoming world-famous? Is it something you think you would enjoy?
TH This means that I would have mastered quite well my art and excelled in it in some way, and for that reason it would make me really happy.
Tickets are available here for Thursday's private view. Hope to see U there!