The only certainty in life is the uncertainty of life. And once that Paradox is realised, you are free to try and achieve whatever you want. The people that inspire us the most, are the people that don’t know what the future will hold, that don’t focus on laying their path to fit in with this world. Instead they lock themselves away, like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, to concentrate on their craft, and once they are flying, everyone will notice the talent.
The Back Story
We met Hiroyuki Uemura when he was just a caterpillar, no less talented than he is now, and with all the DNA of a butterfly, but not yet flying like he is today. In this article we catch up with our friend, the artist behind PARADOX, to find out what has happened in his life since we first met him almost a decade ago.
Mayu met Hiroyuki or Hiro as we call him before I did, my first meeting with Hiro was somewhat blurry, along with the many meetings after that. Hiro lived in a lively share house in East London, and we were often invited for beer fueled bbqs in the garden during the summer months. The house attracted an eccentric crowd of oddballs from all walks of life, and we really enjoyed these meet ups. In the garden, among the random bits of furniture, ganja plants growing between the bushes and numerous raised vegetable beds, was a brick wall decorated by Hiro. It had 3 or 4 stencils, they were portraits of some of the flatmates past and present, and for me it was the first time I had seen any of Hiro’s work.
From my own experiences, living outside of my home country, has opened me up to new ideas, ideas about myself, and what I was capable of. Maybe it's the confidence that comes with being immersed in a new environment or possibly the inspiration that can be found with all the people you force yourself to meet. Whatever the formula is, being away from Japan inspired Hiro in some way, and after two successful exhibitions in London he returned home with the keen focus to pursue a career as an artist.
Sounds dreamy right? But unfortunately reality is often a big wet fish that slaps you right in the face. For Hiro, coming home was not all beers and bbqs with his mates. Being home, meant being broke, living with his parents and spending most of the time up in his room. Instead of progressing, time would seem as though it was in reverse and Hiro was going back to being a teenager. But he kept up the focus, training his skill and pushing his work to various skateboard brands, whilst always keeping an ear out for any exhibitions he might be able to get involved in.
Before Hiro had left London he decided to join a print club learning the basics of screen printing. However that initial taste for printing quickly turned into an obsession, opening up so many new ideas and changing the way he thought about his work. Mayu moved back to Japan in 2013 and told me that Hiro was focusing a lot on his drawing and screen printing many of the designs onto t-shirts. This was the first time I’d heard any of my friends screen printing their own t-shirts, so naturally I thought I have to get one of these. Mayu bought me a shirt which depicted a detailed male lion, with the mane merging into the word paradox, it looked so fucking cool. And guess what, I wasn’t the only person that took notice. In 2015 Hiro was invited to do a solo show in Tokyo, which marked the end of his bedroom years.
Q. You said the first few years of trying to become an artist were really tough, how did you get your first big break that meant having a solo exhibition in Tokyo?
After coming back to Japan in 2012, I really started focusing on my art, but the beginning was very hard. I didn’t have any money and lived with my parents in the countryside. But I knew what I wanted to do, so I kept drawing and sending the work to various skate companies and galleries in the hope I could organise a show. After various exhibitions mainly in Tokyo I got invited to do a solo exhibition called ‘Knocking at the door of my brain’ at a gallery called 104GALERIE in Tokyo. I had such a good feeling about the outcome, the response from people was very positive and I could really feel the excitement.
Q. For the readers unaware about the exhibition, you basically built an entire house that stood inside the space. And from the title ‘Knocking at the door of my brain’ I can only assume that the house stood metaphorically as your brain. As the inside was intricately painted with so many things. What is going on in your head and how do you plan and tackle such a big three dimensional canvas?
That house was the biggest canvas I’ve painted in my life! There wasn’t really a plan to be honest, I just had to go straight into it with the paint, working almost every day, 10 hours straight, for six weeks, it was hard work. I was thinking very deeply each day what messages I wanted to give and after that experience I felt as though I got to know myself much more than I had in the past.
Q. Man that’s serious dedication spending six weeks to create something like that. I was even more taken back when you told me that after the exhibition had finished it took less than a day to destroy it! Straight away I pictured you as a buddhist monk, carefully sweeping up a sand mandala you had so carefully crafted. How did that feel seeing it destroyed?
Haha, I didn’t feel very buddhist at the time! I was completely heartbroken. But recently I spoke to the organizer of that event and it turns out the house didn’t get destroyed after all and is being stored somewhere in their warehouse. So hopefully the mandala will live again!
Q. You’ve completely shit all over my buddhist fantasy! Thanks man, here's me thinking that all things only exist for a brief moment and nothing will last forever, and now you tell me it’s being stored somewhere in a warehouse. Actually not being buddhist myself, I’m quite happy about that, it means that I will hopefully be able to see it in the flesh one day. But did you ever think that when it was being destroyed, in that buddhist like moment, it would push you into the position you are in today?
Haha, but I do feel like that, that things won’t last forever. And through that exhibition I could know a lot more about myself and people still mention it to me today. Yeah I got so much good shit out of that exhibition.
Q. Do you hope to build something again in the future, something temporary like that house?
Hell yeah why not, but I want spent even more time for building next time.
Q. Oh really, that’s awesome! So what’s in store for the future then, any chance you’re going to drop everything, move to India and become a real tibetan buddhist monk?
Haha definitely not! The future is exciting though, I can’t say too much but there are projects I’m really excited about in the pipeline.
Awesome man, thank for your time, can’t wait to see the developments, and keep up the good work!