Tomokazu “Matsu” Matsuyama is a Japanese artist whose life is split between Japan and the United States. With a penchant for colour and texture, his work has been called “visually attractive but conceptually extreme”. It captures a strong connection to his bi-cultural roots, melding traditional Japanese history, American animation and the Disney-themed characters of his childhood.
The technologically-minded Japanese creative was a prime candidate for a challenge set by Toshiba to create a one-off exhibition on the brand’s new notebook, the z20T, as he flew from Tokyo to Sydney.
The machine, which has a battery life of 17 hours, was his only canvas. For an “analogue dude”, initially the challenge seemed impossible.
“It was tough, mentally,” Matsuyama says. “I really had to think outside the box. The way I thought about it was to use the laptop as my tool. I didn’t know where I could take it before I started.”
Before boarding, Matsu took some thinking time to engineer the series, wandering around his birth city for inspiration. Using the tablet to snap some shots that resonated with him, Matsu boarded the flight with no pre-generated material beyond a hand sketch he drew in the airport lounge and translated to a digital file on board.
A visual artist and self-taught painter, Matsu’s work does have a digital aesthetic despite being painted in a classical manner. His craftsman’s mentality delivers incredibly detailed work, layering “kimono tones”, graphic patterns and photography in vibrant, collage-like prints.
The toughest part of Matsu's challenge was to create museum-quality work in such a limited time frame. Given the artist's often labour-intensive creative process, the time constraint meant he had just 60–90 minutes for each piece on show.
“I couldn’t sleep with my work, flip it around and see it again three days later," says Matsu. "I just had to keep going."
Matsu’s intention is to make his art accessible to the public, mediating hybrid cultures via identifiable figurative and narrative forms in a bright, highly stylised way. While he is interested in talking about 21st-century identity in a global age, Matsu is conscious that digital media is changing art.
“The whole view of who we are now is changing. All the information we need is in the palm of our hands,” he says.
So will it change the way he works in the future?
“I'm a little scared of what I've learnt. Now I see there is a beauty in being quick.”
The five 70cm x 70cm prints were on display for two nights only at the Quayside room at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
See behind the scenes of Matsu's challenge at the Toshiba Facebook page.