Walking through the halls of the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, you realize just how lucky some artists are to call it home. The hallways are filled with works by residents, one of whom is Meguru Yamaguchi. Fresh off a collaboration with Uniqlo, the Japanese artist welcomed us into his second floor studio. Immediately, a wave of blue, black and white paint strokes in intricate forms greet you from the floor and wall. This is Meguru's signature "Cut and Paste" technique.
Meguru developed his unique style by splattering paint (with occasional spray paint) in a controlled yet chaotic manner onto plastic sheets. Once the paint dries, he places it onto a laser-cut three-dimensional piece of plastic so that everything pops even further. When we asked him to describe his style in three words, he said "out of bounds."
"OUT OF BOUNDS" was not only the name of a series of works for Meguru's exhibition in New York last year but also the artist's way of defining his path.
My series "OUT OF BOUNDS" was created through my intention to express the brush stroke that has timeless value - from the earliest times, it literally jumps over all those squares/canvas/rules and principles/system/notion and conception. I could not enroll in art university nor become an office worker. I received racial discrimination for being Asian after I started living in New York. My "OUT OF BOUNDS" series is an expression of myself as an outsider in society through brush strokes. It is a term used in sports, I like the phrase very much as it makes me feel like a ball that leaps with great strength and speed regardless of a boundary line.
At his "OUT OF BOUNDS" show last year, a stranger took pictures of his work and made graphic edits combining pieces and shared it with Meguru via social media. The revelation that his work could be further improved upon led the artist to create his "SPLITTING HORIZON" pieces which are pieced together from various works to give more meaning to the final outcome. "The word horizon has a meaning of mindset or perspective other than meaning the apparent line that separates Earth from sky. "SPLITTING HORIZON" is the series of works created through the process of dividing my conventional way of perception or ways of thinking once, then obtaining completely different view angles. It was an experience of creating works being influenced and inspired via the Internet which Apple's iPhone provides and throwing my response back into the iPhone's world. I was convicted that expressions with reality achieved now is only possible in this modern Internet age," the artist explained.
In addition to drawing inspiration from social media these days, Meguru credits many other major influences ever since he was a youth: hip-hop, Kazuo Shiraga, Akira Toriyama, Gerhard Richter, Vincent van Gogh, Christin Baker and Katharina Grosse to name a few. He learned about and educated himself in oil painting from a very young age and grew up in street culture. "As a result of and based on all those experiences, I tried and researched representational and abstract painting, that's how I have come to my current brush stroke style. I realized that the painting technique of brush stroke itself has been inherited before the Renaissance and is timeless and universal across the times and borders and hence its value is timeless and perpetual," he explains.
Meguru is also quick to mention that sampling things is something ingrained into Japanese people's DNA "as can be seen in the Japanese automotive industry and ramen noodles." So his definition of an original work is "something that affects you by someone and something, and from that influence you multiply the factors in your own recipe and add your own flavor or color in order to hand it over to next generation."
His own color palette is currently influenced by artists of American abstract expressionism. Most of his recent work features heavily in blues and that is a direct influence from Picasso's Blue Period. "In the earlier stages of my career, I was painting flowers with brush strokes. Then I started to draw my friend's internet portraits. I broke a mirror to get fragmented works and after that I did brush strokes to jump out of the canvas. Now I've taken away the canvas to evolve. It simplified and allows the brush strokes to be more intensified. Artist's cannot stay in one place and keep one style," Meguru comments.
The artist also mentions that living in both Tokyo and New York helped his art career in different ways. "Tokyo is the city in the world I love the most but is also the city I loathe most," he says. This is because 10 years ago, he felt he could no longer make a living in Japan as an artist due to Japanese way of seeing things when you choose a different path from others; "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down." When he moved to New York, he realized that diversity is accepted and that "individuality is respected and that the differences between me and you are naturally excepted as the norm."
I could just focus on working on my art because New York's such a social and cultural property, as no one interferes with me, in a good way. I find lots of noise in Tokyo but of course there are good ones coming through as well though. Both are big cities but I guess in New York I can say that there is no noise to interfere with you, that is the most prominent difference if I compared the cities. In New York people are concentrated and focused on what they do. To me, New York is much like the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (The Room of Spirit And Time) illustrated in Dragon Ball. However, wherever you are based in the world, I think it is essential to maintain your calmness in order to work in your busy daily life. I have to say Tokyo and New York gave me incalculable amount of influences, impacts and effects.
It's clear to see that the last decade spent in New York has helped the artist grow and given him ample amounts of support and much needed focus to his craft and passion. While Meguru appreciates every single project and collaboration he's worked on, he says that his 2017 project with ISSEI MIYAKE was especially notable because it backed by his good friend who he met more than 10 years ago while in cramming for a test to get into art university. Another memorable collaboration for him was in 2017 as well, doing the interior of the Nike Kicks Lounge in Omotesando.
An honest and humble artist, friend, and father, Meguru is always smiling and furthering his own style while representing two cities that have made him who he is. You can read his interview with Nike from the 2016-2017 NFL season and follow him on Instagram @meguruyamaguchi.
Full gallery below: