Updated: Apr 21
SaiakuNana, a Japanese contemporary artist, has made a name for herself in the art world through her unique style and thought-provoking pieces. Based in London, she has held solo exhibitions in Tokyo since 2015 and was awarded the TARO Award at the 21st Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art in 2018. In 2021, SaiakuNana opened a gallery in Shoreditch, exhibiting her original artworks. In this article, we delve into SaiakuNana's life as an artist, her influences, and her creative journey.
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic background and how you got into creating?
"I didn’t have any career aspirations in my high school days. I always thought
that you would need to have some special talent to be an artist. As I didn’t think I had any talent, I decided to study graphic design after high school, but my motive wasn’t pure. I chose graphic design because I thought that it might make it easy to find employment at a design agency. At the graphic design school, we received short painting classes. During these, I met the painting teacher who changed my life. I had previously believed that I would have to paint ‘well’, in a kind of proper way, and within a certain conventional framework; but he told me that I didn’t have to paint in this manner at all. This overturned all the ideas I held about painting. Until then, I thought that paintings had to be done skillfully so that they could be accepted and admired by everybody. It was a total revelation to me that I was free to paint whatever I wanted to express – from the bottom of my heart. This was the moment when I found the space to express myself freely in life. Even now, I feel that I’m still driven forward by the jolt of realization that I had back then. I get a sense of happiness when I create something cool."
Tell us about your inspiration and creative process.
"I don’t even do rough sketches beforehand, to be honest, my head is totally empty when I’m working. Like when I’m performing a song, my mind is blank, and my hand moves of its own accord. In my case, if I plan ahead by making a rough sketch, the work doesn’t turn out well. It is the same with my view on life, if you have a fixed idea about how things should pan out, you restrict yourself and end up with something small. I’m mostly influenced by musicians, particularly Hirozi Miyamoto, who is the vocalist of the Japanese rock band, Elephant Kashimashi. I also adore Oasis and the Gallagher brothers’ attitudes. And any painters would deeply appreciate the way Hayao Miyazaki directs his films."
Your art has been featured in several galleries and exhibitions. Can you walk us through your experience exhibiting your work and how it has impacted your career?
“I was completely unknown in the UK and I was very apprehensive about opening the gallery where nobody knew me. I had no idea if I would get any visitors at all in my gallery. But I’m really happy that I’ve been having lots of people visiting, having fun and spending time looking at my works here. My artistic base has been In Japan, where I had only Japanese visitors but here in London, I get people from all over the world, which is very stimulating. Although my English isn’t very good right now, it’s utterly joyous to find that I can still have heart-to-heart communications with people who resonate with my art. As my visa expires in the summer, I will have to close the gallery for a while, but I want to create as much as possible and exhibit them until then. Every day I renew my fervent wish to improve my gallery, it’s my heart’s desire to make it the coolest gallery in London, so I want to keep on creating to my heart’s content. ”
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting their creative journey?
“I create art out of my heart; it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that my works ooze out all the contents of my heart – joy, sorrow, feelings that I can’t tell others, a multitude of feelings I experience every day. There are all types of artists and I think some of them may separate their art from their personal stuff but personally I prefer artworks, be it paintings or music, that are like having conversations between the artwork and the creator, expressing what they want to say honestly. In those works I can sense passion for their art. If the separation between art and artist becomes too wide, the artwork could become soul-less and lose the essence of art.”
Which pieces of work are you most proud of and why?
I probably have no pieces I’m most proud of. Of course, I love my work though. Perhaps it’s because I have a feeling that I haven’t reached my maximum potential, I continue painting every day trying to achieve the best I can do. For the past ten years or so, I’ve never missed a day without painting or drawing and I have produced more than 4,000 works but I still can’t stop…that is probably because I want to do better all the time.