Taka Sudo Interview
Taka Sudo is living the dream. Creating art, traveling and imbibing the brews each new place has to offer. The Japanese native relocated to Canada for the skiing and stayed for the art scene. His mixed media masterpieces are loud with color and expression, featuring animal and human subjects surrounded by an explosive mix of text and paint spatters. His work has been featured in galleries along the Pacific coast, from Portland to L.A., and on T-shirts and knapsacks from brands such as LADE and Faction Skis. His inspiration: the characteristic chaos of Tokyo and the serenity of the Vancouver slopes to an extent, but mainly the universality of human creativity. Excited at the chance to discuss art and the business of visual expression, he shared insights on starting out in a new place, working with brands, and blending snow sports with painting.
You recently collaborated with Monstrinho for the Hellion Gallery. What was it like to share the canvas with another artist? Would you like to do another project like that?
When I saw the canvas Monstrinho finished on my painting, it was a very exciting moment. I was so surprised and loved the finished canvas so much. I always love to do collaboration on canvas, walls, projects or anything with other artists. Every time I collaborate with other artists, I can discover new aspects, new values and new potential of art. Throughout the time doing collaboration, artists can push boundaries for each other and respect each other. That’s a really cool thing.
Your art is displayed on apparel, sports gear, and various accessories. Did you seek out that market, or were you discovered and approached by brands?
Brands found me and approached me. I’m a skier and live very close to a ski hill, so I guess I’m exposing my artwork naturally to the ski & snowboard world every day. And I’m exhibiting my artwork not only at galleries but also at clothing stores, ski & snowboard stores, and restaurants etc. — anywhere I can show my works or anywhere people would like to see them. I think to keep being busy making new artwork and showing artwork is a better and more creative way for artists than just waiting for opportunities.
Can you give some advice on how to represent yourself as an artist when working with merchandisers?
I really appreciate that all the brands I’ve ever worked with understand art and love art very much, so they always had great ideas about how my artwork would fit on their products. They always respect artists.
I just work on artwork to fit the concepts of the merchandisers. When I’m making artwork for merchandise, I think about what will people who use merchandise like to see. That’s like collaboration with the brand, users and artist. Representing style and ego are different things. Respect merchandisers, their concept, and their users before trying to represent your style. That’s the advice I can give. Express brands’ concepts and try to create artwork which people will love. That is the best way to represent yourself on merchandise. Merchandise with cool graphics will sometimes bring brightness in daily life. That is the great thing artists can do.
After relocating to Whistler, how did you go about building your presence as an artist there and on the U.S. west coast?
I asked a local newspaper in Whistler if I could make cover art for them. That was my first art exposure there. Since then, I’ve kept making new artwork, and I had opportunities to exhibit my works at Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler and galleries in Vancouver. I’m not only making art, but I’m always trying to keep myself busy, keep doing something and keep my eyes wide open. I never waste my time just sitting on couch or smoking. One day I heard lots of good things about Portland,OR. So many great artists, great music, a beautiful city, and their environment-friendly life style made me really want to go there. Then I met Hellion Gallery which was showing Japanese artists in Portland. I had a show there and also worked on some really cool projects with Hellion Gallery like murals and live-painting for a fundraising event. C.A.V.E. Gallery in Los Angeles found my artwork when I had a show in Portland. Now I’m having a show there. West coast cities are all so beautiful, unique and powerful. I really like to travel to other cities and meet new people. That’s the strongest inspiration for me.
Do you think being a member of the snow sport culture helped you navigate that market as an artist?
Yes. I agree. Snow sport culture gives me so much passion and energy to keep creating artwork. And skiing taught me how to push myself. So I guess my snow-sport-culture-inspired artwork fit well on skis or snowboards. And I guess skiers and snowboarders like to see artwork with same energy and passion. Natural and simple flow. Just like skateboarder artists make artworks on skate decks or music-loving artists make artworks for record jackets, making artwork for a culture I love is great pleasure as an artist.
Whistler is the best place for skiers and snowboarders, but actually the worst place for artists. Expensive rent, no art supply stores, no gallery showing our style artists. But even those negative conditions make me tough and creative. And I love to make art among skiers’ and snowboarders’ strong passion and energy. Working for this culture is a great pleasure for me.
You have said that Tokyo is a difficult location for artists. What challenges have you faced there, and how did you handle them?
Tokyo is a very expensive place, so it’s difficult to find the space to make art. And most people live in small houses, so purchasing art is not as common as in North America. Tokyo is filled with so much great culture and creativity from all over the world, so it’s very tough competition for younger artists, but that’s why artists in Tokyo are very cool, very unique, very creative and very strong. Difficult challenges and pessimistic situations make artists stronger and more creative. My artist friends in Tokyo always have cool new ideas and strong energy. And they are making a very strong artist community. I get inspired so much every time I go back to Japan.
When I had a show with Tokyo artist Reijiro Mochizuki, he had amazing ideas. We set up an open studio-like space in the gallery along with art exhibition on the wall. We were making art there during the exhibition period, and everyone could come into the open studio-like space and experience making art, silk-screening, etc. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever had. I now live in Canada, but always love to go to Tokyo. And I really respect all of my artist friends in Tokyo.
Your work allows you to contribute to one of your passions, snow sports. You have said you also enjoy surfing. Do you expect your work to branch into that industry as well?
Of course! It’d be a great pleasure for me if surfers could enjoy my artwork while they are on the wave. I love surfing so much. I was surfing every time I went back to Japan. But enormous amount of radiation are still leaking into the ocean from Fukushima nuclear power plant. Lots of good Japanese surf spots are dead. And the Japanese government and electricity power company are ignoring the fact. I feel like I also need to keep fighting with this terrible thing as an artist. I don’t think artists can change the world or anything, but artists can inspire people. We should make something we can believe and should work for what we love.