Tomokazu Matsuyama

Drawing from Life’s History

Theme Magazine, Winter 2007

Painter and installation artist Tomokazu Matsuyama, just 30, has already lived through more years of cultural confusion than most of us will ever see. The oft-transplanted Matsuyama, now in New York, makes the accidental multiculturalism that doesn’t show on his face the primary subject of all of his work. “When I considered what is uniquely mine,” explains the artist, “I realized I wanted to take everything I was raised with and mix it all up and make something completely new.”

In keeping with his global upbringing, Matsuyama exhibits his contemporary art around the world, in addition to working with multinationals like Levi’s and Nike to bring them into line with “the now, today, in all of its cultural complexity.” He strives to portray this global melee through a conscious “appropriation” of all of his influences: cultural, artistic, and personal. Matsuyama’s unconflicted and positively ebullient works do not ask, “What am I?,” but assert, “I am everybody.”

It’s no surprise, then, that observers have a hard time accurately labeling the guy. Passersby catching an eyeful of Matsuyama’s “live paintings” and murals assume him a graffiti artist; American curators picking up on the Japanese spatial sensibilities and color schemes in his paintings call him a Japanese painter; Japanese audiences, in turn, spotting the Pop forms and patterns, label him Western.