The combination of unfamiliar elements is a consistent idea running though my work. Born and raised in Tokyo, I remember a dense city with its own strong traditions that was also flooded with the foreign culture of different countries. The adaptation to the foreign cultures was shown in many forms in our daily life. I was often intrigued by the awkwardness of this synthesis, and I also recognized its fresh perspective and potential.
The fusion of traditional Roman mosaic and digital images in my work springs from a similar fascination. They are dissimilar, yet awkwardly rely on each other to create a captivating result. In 2000-2001,1 had a strong response to concurrent exhibitions of Chuck Close's work and Roman mosaics at Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. They are related in their use of repetitious squares, but are very differently configured. Roman mosaics are laid out free-form, and Chuck Close's squares are in a tight grid formation like pixels in a digital photograph. Seeing these two types of work simultaneously inspired me to explore mosaics of pixilated images.
Digital technology informs both process and content in my work. It helps me to create images. I rely on it to separate colors in CMYK format so that I can screen-print using underglazes on clay in full color. The pixilation of the images makes my use of technology apparent; however, the process is labor intensive since the tiles are all hand printed and hand made. They are also adhered and grouted by hand. The imperfections and quality of handmade tiles are as important as the action of putting the tiles together one by one. I want my work to suggest Roman mosaic, where the touch • of the artist is evident.
I am concerned with our relationships to technology in our daily lives. Since 2006, I have started to realize an intriguing contrast in the subtext of historical mosaics and contemporary digital mosaics. Historically, mosaic was a way to reveal imagery and design, yet in our contemporary culture it is used in an opposite manner - to obscure nudity, identity, or an obscene gesture. I found the use of digital mosaic to disguise identity, often seen on TV or online, intriguing, as it so closely resembles my mosaic portraits. From here, the subject matter developed into something more specific as I became more interested in online identities and activities.
The Romans created mosaics: of scenes from their daily lives, such as hunting, dining, and sporting events. I am also creating mosaic out of our daily lives, specifically online activity. Many of us probably have more than a couple of alternative online identities to blog, shop, pay bills, or maybe meet people. However, we rarely disclose our real names online. The current phenomena of Facebook and YouTube remind us of our strong desire to reach people, yet we are fearful of revealing our identities. Through pixilation and abstraction of the portrait, my work visually expresses anonymity, and suggests this paradoxical aspect of contemporary life.