May 8, 2012
Mhak and Gage
In March, artist and resident blogger Gage Hamilton went to Tokyo for his first international solo show with Hellion Gallery x AMP. Always keen to tap into the creative scene, Gage caught up with a few major talents from the world’s largest metropolis to find out what drives them to create.
IUTER Headquarter (Milano, Italy) 2011: photo by studio CIRASA
Mhak a.k.a. Masahiro Akutagawa is a prolific artist and designer in Tokyo. Mhak has a very distinctive style and a passion for making his mark on interior spaces through wall paintings and collaborative furniture design. He has shown in Argentina, Australia, Japan, China and the US, and has many works available through Hellion Gallery in Portland. He is also known for his role as Art Director for Common Magazine.
Spanish & Bar LUZ (Shibuya, Tokyo) 2012: photo by Kou Miyama (Miyama Photo Studio)
You’ve developed a really distinct style, one that is easily recognizable as belonging to you. Did you set out to do that or did it just come naturally?
That was my intention. I originally wanted to develop my own style.
It seems like you’ve kind of taken that branding approach and really branded yourself as an artist. Is that something you set out to do while studying fashion design?
My motif is not influenced by fashion or apparel design, but the method of developing a style and how to get my work out there is heavily influenced by fashion.
Did you see yourself painting murals when you went to fashion school?
I didn’t think I’d be getting into murals when I first went to school, but I was drawing and painting a lot. At first the purpose was to decorate my room and my living space, because I was collecting a lot of designer chairs and wanted some paintings on the wall that would go with them. I couldn’t afford to buy paintings by my favorite artists, so I decided to do it myself.
Hotel Mets Shibuya room no.1406 (Shibuya,Tokyo) 2010: photo by snp (GB.Inc)
Do you see paintings and murals differently than having your designs on cars, clocks, chairs, apparel skate decks or hotel rooms?
I don’t really differentiate products versus murals. What I think about differently is whether my work will be indoors or outdoors, because I’m very concerned about interior space and I have to be conscious about how my work will be exhibited and how the environment will be. When I paint outside I don’t need to think as much about that because I don’t need to be conscious about the arrangements of other things, like tables and chairs.
I think I told you before, the last couple years you’ve had a better presence in Portland than most Portland artists. How do you manage to stay so visible abroad while living in Tokyo?
It’s not my intention, it’s just that there are people that offer me a chance. In Portland, Matt Wagner of Hellion Gallery has done that. I feel extremely lucky to have those opportunities. But living in Tokyo actually works as an advantage because it’s a place that brings people together. I feel I have a better chance of meeting and connecting with people that can offer me more opportunities outside.
Where else has your work brought you internationally?
Buenos Aires, Italy, and Portland are the places I’ve actually visited, but I’ve shown in LA, New York, Sydney and China.
MHAK x MEISTER : KSTM Series ver, MMS Living Board of MEISTER
You’ve started working at Common Magazine as well, has that had any effect on the work you produce as an artist? Does it encourage or facilitate collaborations?
I’ve known the people at Common for awhile, so I don’t think that working for them has changed me as an artist. Common has given me some opportunities to realize my ideas though. I am very interested in artist’s studios spaces because I believe living spaces are a reflection of a person or personality traits, so the next issue in Common will feature Melbourne artist group Everfresh and it is about their studio space.
You’ve done a lot of collaboration work, do you prefer to work solo or with other artists?
I enjoy doing interior wall paintings the most. Secondly, I like doing works on products where I collaborate. And then painting on canvas. So I guess I prefer working solo on interiors.
The next project that I’m involved in is for the launching of Levi’s Commuter line in Shibuya where I’m painting on a show window. Then I have a showcase on my collaboration furniture at Isetan in Shinjuku.