Mizuma Conversations | Ohata Shintaro on “Resonate”

Exhibition View
To me, paintings do not exist just to express something but also as a medium for two people to connect with one another and to share that emotion.

– Ohata Shintaro

Mizuma Gallery presents Mizuma Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with featured artists. Artist in feature here is Ohata Shintaro, whose solo presentation is currently on view at our Singapore gallery.

He speaks more with us on his thoughts that lay beneath his simplistic monochromatic sceneries of everyday moments, the impacts of his resonating emotions and nostalgia, intentions behind his tender-aged pseudo characters, and last but not least, his debut solo exhibition in Singapore, Resonate.

Read the full interview with Ohata Shintaro here.


Stunning sceneries fill the exhibition space of Resonate, a solo exhibition by Japanese artist, Ohata Shintaro – his debut solo in Singapore. On exhibit are 13 selected artworks produced from 2016 to 2018, a mixed body of works with the subject characters existing either in a two- or three- dimensional form. Resembling a single shot from a film, these casual scenes of everydayness kindle in us a certain nostalgia.

In Ohata’s unified world of paintings and three-dimensional forms, he presents a sense of real-life immersion with his impeccable control of colours, shades, and light. It is often mistaken that a kind of light source is present within the paintings, when is it simply his meticulous placement of individual pieces of coloured Japanese paper that created the illusion. Mostly drawn from actual scenes in life, his recent depictions reflect a shift in the artist’s routine; from intimate settings of the nighttime, Ohata has now embraced more cheery sunlit moments of the day.

The absence of a completed narrative in each piece allows for room to peek into imaginative realms, each unique to every individual’s thoughts and experiences. The feeling of reminisce is predominately captured in Ohata’s paintings. Through his eyes, we witness the dazzling and enfolding light of sunset, city roads on a rainy day, and the gleaming fluorescence of convenience stores at night. Amidst the rapid speed of life, Ohata urges audience to pause for a moment and take a breather.


Resonate, Opening Reception, Mizuma Gallery, Singapore

Resonate, Opening Reception, Mizuma Gallery, Singapore


Mizuma Gallery (MG): Hello Ohata-san. You have always chosen to express yourself by reinterpreting the simple moments of everyday life – what is it about these moments that interests you?

Ohata Shintaro (OS): Sometimes, we look at a certain scenery and we identify it as beautiful, but that could possibly caused by the influence of someone else’s idea of beauty. The ability to notice the simple and beautiful moments in everyday life comes from within each person’s sensibility. I hope by capturing these moments, I can help more people see the beauty of everyday life and to share them with everyone.


MG: Is there any place, season, or time of day in particular that you chose to seek for inspiration?

OS: Although a lot of my works depict nighttime, I do not have any specifics on where I look for inspiration. I am very neutral. I enjoy taking walks and when I see something that inspires me, I photograph it. But I do not intentionally seek out places that might look beautiful, it really depends on where I end up at.

I like to fill my photographs with light. In order to do so, I have to find a place with enough light to fill the entire frame. I happen to find that in Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan) and thus a lot of my images have Shibuya in the background.


MG: How do you document and transfer these selected moments into your works? Are they purely drawn from memory or from a physical photograph/sketch?

OS: I will usually take a photo of the moment or scenery that inspires me. Using this photograph as a reference, not only do I transfer this moment into my paintings, but I also try to recall certain emotions and thoughts that I had experienced and have them translated into my paintings.


Left to Right: A rainy day–1, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 130.3 x 162 cm, In a corner of the world, 2016, mixed media, 162 x 177 x 54 cm, A rainy day–2, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 130.3 x 130.3 cm


MG: How do you train yourself and sharpen your senses to see the beauty in simple moments?

OS: For me, I do that by mostly listening to music. When you listen to music, there is only audio and no imagery, hence it forces you to use your imagination to convert those emotions and feelings into something visual.

I try not to have any preconceived notions or expectations of what I see in life, and to accept them for what they are. I have a motto or principle that I live by, which is to not let these attractive, beautiful and interesting moments in my daily life pass me by, and to really sit down and reflect on why did that moment or scenery seem beautiful to me. I constantly ask myself what about it was so interesting, explore that notion and transform that into my work.


MG: You tend to describe your artworks best with the Japanese word “setsunai” – a word that can not be translated into an exact English term because it includes different emotions such as grief, sorrow, pity, and reminiscence. Are these emotions coupled with any narrative?

OS: I try to translate particular moments or images that came to me into my paintings. Because of that, I do not insert a story or narrative to accompany my works. Once I attach a story or a narrative to my works, the work is no longer trying to convey a moment but instead, a long timeline, and viewers will attempt to understand the context of why this person is here and what happened to them before or after the work was created. It would no longer be a painting that conveys a moment, but instead a long amount of time which I do not wish to do so. What I want to do is to share the imagery of emotions at that moment. When you come across a painting or a work with a story, it becomes much more explanatory and less experiential.


MG: There always seems to be something you wish to express through your exhibition titles – now with Resonate, the title of your first solo exhibition in Singapore here at Mizuma Gallery, do share more with us on this choice of title.

OS: It takes two hands to clap – when you clap, you do not know whether it is the left or right hand that makes the sound. The sound is produced when both hands come together. To me, the left and right hands are like the artist and the viewers. It is not just about the artist painting something beautiful and presenting it to the viewers. In painting something beautiful and having viewers look at it, they are able to resonate with the artist hence the exhibition title ‘Resonate‘. To me, paintings do not exist just to express something, but also as a medium for two people to connect with one another and to share that emotion. I paint sceneries that I find beautiful and if viewers feel something from my works, this means that me and viewers “resonate”.


Deep Breath (detail), 2018, mixed media, 162 x 130.3 cm (painting), 146 x 55 x 40 cm (sculpture), © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART

Deep Breath (detail), 2018, mixed media, 162 x 130.3 cm (painting), 146 x 55 x 40 cm (sculpture), © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART


MG: We notice an interesting use of monochromatic colour schemes throughout each work in this exhibition – is there a reason for this?

OS: I attempted to paint realistically but when I added the sculpture to the painting, I found it difficult to tie the sculpture back together with the painting. Using a monochromatic colour scheme allows the sculpture and the painting to look like a single piece of work and this became the style I adopted.

The colours I have chosen to use really depends on the time of the day that I want to depict. For example, if it is a late night scenery, I will tend to use the colours green or purple, whereas if it is daytime, I will use orange to represent that particular timing. The choice of colours is also an expression of the emotions that I felt within each painting.


MG: Many curious viewers are drawn to the young female subject in all your artworks, what are the intentions behind this choice?

OS: I often depict a young girl as the subject character in my work to express the world as how I think a young girl would see it. I feel that through the eyes of the young girl, the reality is filled with awe, wonder, and magic. If I were to depict a male subject instead, I fear that I might subconsciously relate it too much to my own personal experiences and steer it away from the more imaginative world I wish to portray. With an unrelatable subject, there is more room for imagination and everything becomes more magical. Through that, I am able to push my imagination further, creating pieces that really shares the magic of everyday life with the viewers.


Swing against the sunset (detail), 2018, mixed media, 130.3 x 89.4 x 40 cm, © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART

Swing against the sunset (detail), 2018, mixed media, 130.3 x 89.4 x 40 cm, © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART


MG: In an earlier interview, you mentioned that you draw much inspiration from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” – could you elaborate more on that?

OS: I watched the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and was inspired by the set. The combination of mise-en-scène and characters, through acting, brings the entire set alive, as if it was another world or reality. I was really inspired by that and thought that perhaps through the fusion of sculpture and painting, I am able to create a space where my world can come to life. The idea of creating and going into a new reality is what I hope to establish through my works.


MG: You have mentioned that you listen to piano while working – how does that influence you in the way you work?

OS: I like to listen to the piano when I work because one note on the piano does not create music, it is the combination and overlapping of notes and sounds that creates the music. Similarly to painting, one stroke of the brush produces just one colour but with multiple strokes of the brush, it creates the entire painting. Even for the sculptures, by placing one piece of coloured Japanese paper at a time, layering more and more over until the colours reverberate with the rest of the scenery, eventually gives birth to something. That is why listening to the piano while working helps to strengthen this mindset, constantly seeing a reminder to myself.


In the sea (detail), 2018, mixed media, 130 x 130 x 65 cm, © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART

In the sea (detail), 2018, mixed media, 130 x 130 x 65 cm, © OHATA Shintaro, courtesy of the artist, Mizuma Gallery and YUKARI ART


MG: How long does it usually take for you to complete each piece of artwork?

OS: Usually it takes about a month to complete a painting but it really depends on the size. For a small painting, it could take a week or two. When it is combined with a sculpture, it will take about two to two and a half months to finish the artwork. Actually, more time is taken to complete the sculpture than the painting. Sculpting the sculptures does not take that long but what is really time consuming is adhering the little pieces of paper onto the sculpture. The process is akin to putting together a puzzle or a mosaic so that takes a longer time.


MG: What is your most ambitious project you have in mind?

OS: My biggest ambition right now is to bring my works to more people around the world. Most people only get to see my work through photographs or through the net, but I want to bring that experience of seeing my work in reality to more viewers.


Resonate, solo exhibition by Ohata Shintaro runs till Sunday, 12 August 2018.

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