Hiro Sakaguchi

Great wall pen and ink [2009]

In your paintings it looks like you’re using acrylic, oil, and I see some ink.

Yes, I am using Ink, Acrylic, and some Bynol paint. Only sometimes am I using oil.

Do you often feel that you are engaging with a narrative or story-line when you approach a painting or a drawing?

It’s not that I try to make a story, but show associations in my head. There are those kinds of quick two-second associations to begin. Sometimes I go back to look for a specific image. You know, I think, ‘I am going to make a painting: great wall of China center, war machines left-side, and a peaceful image on the right, OK.’ So then I’ll need to go back and gather images of a tank or something. But at the same time it is all a totally fictional scene. This is not the way the great wall of China is. I add some elements, so it’s not just China.

Do you often use points in history from which to get images for paintings?

It’s not history exactly. I’m interested in history, but more so how when you grow up you have this sense of history in your head in addition to which you are imagining things. It has nothing to do with historical-correctness or trying to comment on history. Again, it’s like those two-second associations which interest me.

Eye of the Typhoon graphite and watercolor on paper [2009]

So it’s more about memory and direct associations you can make?

Yes, and when you’re a kid everything is much more visual. When you’re a kid you can think of things but may not always be able to express them, but now, I feel like I can paint these associations. Let me show you something I was working on.

This is the eye of a hurricane. I remember as kids we had a lot of typhoons coming in, and once in a while a typhoon would come in and we saw the break in the middle of the storm, and as kids we would go outside at this time a play. I’m absolutely sure this could be a false memory that I have, but just thinking about that has allowed me to make this work with a peaceful image of a house and people in the center and around the sides a scary image of a cloud.

Endless traveler acrylic oil and ink on canvas [2009]

I feel a lot of art being made in the U.S. right now by people who grew up outside the states and now live here, is being re-appropriated into this theme of “globalism and art”. Whereas I think a lot of people are more accurately dealing with the tenuous idea of being neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’ that you are at times. So do you view your works [of travel] as dealing with globalism or being nowhere?

I think I’m just being myself in these works. I think that it’s not art about art, but just some image for myself to see. I don’t think about it is the terms of ‘global’ or ‘globalism’, but I can absolutely see what you are saying. It’s more about being outside of country, you notice how you are being in another country. Maybe being here [in the U.S.] I feel like I can be objective about my personal history, you know. But sometimes I find myself, like right now, that I should be more foolish and stupid in my art-making to push myself more.

Are you intellectually happy with the work that you are making now?

Intellectually I’m making something and doing something I’ve been doing for a while, and I’d really like to invite something in that I don’t know [how to work with]. I’m doing something I know, but there’s always painting different, and even here (motions to painting on wall), there is always something new. Sometimes, I feel like I could push myself more. There is too much balance, and because I’ve been painting so long, I always tend to balance things out. Sometimes I want to let things go and break that balance to make something new.

Do you do only two dimensional work?

For the past five years I’ve been working on two-dimensional work, but lately I’ve thought that the things I’m thinking or daydreaming about need to be made as a three-dimensional work.

Bear fishing acrylic on canvas [2008]

You said you’ve been painting a lot for the past five years, but do you do a lot of printmaking?

Because of Philagrafika (an international print symposium in Philadelphia), I wanted to make something using some kind of print. Because of the popularity of T-Shirts, you know, cool T-Shirts look good, and they have a ‘label’, but it’s also like a painting. So I printed an image on T-Shirts. But otherwise, no. Not a lot at all. Printmaking is kind of frustrating to me because there is the feeling that you can not go back so easily (because it’ a process). But maybe that was something I struggled with as a student. And now, I wonder why I am still thinking that way because I am probably limiting myself. I’m now becoming more open to it.