Interview with artist Yosuke Ueno for ‘Beautiful Noise’

Yosuke Ueno Studio

An interview with artist Yosuke Ueno for his upcoming show ‘Beautiful Noise’ at Thinkspace Gallery. The opening reception for ‘Beautiful Nosie’ is Saturday, May 23, and is on view till June 13.

SH: Can you share with us something that scares you and something that makes you really happy?
YU: Recently I recognized that the happiest thing is simple like, living with delicious meals, and good sleep in a comfortable bed. Since I found that, I can always feel happy whether it is rain or shine. What always scare me are people with no imagination.

SH: Favorite food after a long day or night of painting?
YU: Everything my wife cooks for me.

SH: What is your creative process? How long does it take to finish an average painting?
YU: Whatever and whenever I create, time which I spent for a work is whole my life. So if I finish a painting today, I can say it takes 37 years and 11month to do this piece.

SH: Are you a cat or dog person?
YU: I like both. I always try not to belong any “groups.”

SH: Your work is extremely colorful. On average how many different paint colors do you use?
YU: I’ve never counted how many paint colors I use when I paint. However, I am always really concern with where to put colors, because color layout is one of most important things in my artworks. The better the colors go together, the more colorful the work looks. For example, it is sometimes said that girls I depict have rainbow color hairs, but I use only four colors to paint those colorful hair girls.

SH: Do you have a favorite paint brand and brush right now?
YU: The brand is not a matter for me. Any brushes improve with use. For me, price of tools are not important at all.

SH: Your characters’ hair are often colored like a rainbow and your work features repeating words and acronyms throughout. Please explain the symbolic significance of these for those not already familiar with your work and the vast visual keys that each piece contain.
YU: I love science and it is a good inspiration for me, because phenomenon of science happens to everyone equally regardless of race, religion, or sex. I often put an acronym ATGC in my works. The ATGC means four bases of DNA: Adenine, Thymine, Guanine and Cytosine. In my opinion, the ATGC is a symbol of peace because all animate being shares the molecular elements. I think we are not usually aware of what important for our life because of that’s simplicity. I use some motifs repeatedly to remind those simple but important things.*

SH: What is the main inspiration behind your upcoming show, Beautiful Noise?
YU:I can say my hobby is to think. So I’m always thinking about things all the time while I am awake. However, those that I always think about are not enough to be called philosophy, and I call those as noise in my mind. I think my duty is to output those noises into my artworks. Beautiful Noise, it’s a title for works come up with noises in my mind.

SH: How many cups of coffee or tea do you drink a day?
YU: The first thing I do in the morning is to fill my Thermos with coffee by milling the beans by myself.

SH: When did you know / decide to be a professional artist?
YU: When I was seven. The reason was that my friends enjoyed cartoons I drew.

SH: What advice would you give a new artist who looks up to you?
YU: I have no idea now…let me think about that until next time.

SH: Any other toy / figure projects you can share that are coming up on the horizon?
YU: Well, I can’t announce it yet, but one character shown in this show would come up with a figure in the Christmas season. Stay tuned!

SH: Star Wars or Star Trek?
YU: I can’t discuss Star Wars without watching the triptych that is going to be released hereafter, and neither can I discuss Star Trek because there’re too much Star Trek series and I haven’t watched those enough to talk something about it. Maybe I will be like 60 years old when I can speak something about it.

*For more information on the meaning behind the symbols used in Yosuke’s work, please visit his website .

Yosuke Ueno – Beautiful Noise

Yosuke in studio

Yosuke Ueno – ‘Beautiful Noise’
Opening Reception with Artist: Saturday May 23, 6-9pm
May 23rd – June 13th

Thinkspace is pleased to present Beautiful Noise, the gallery’s fourth solo exhibition for Japanese artist Yosuke Ueno. A self-taught painter, Ueno has been creating fantastic worlds and characters as long as he can remember. Highly stylized and beautifully imaginative, his works are surreal and emotional; an alternate reality expressed through a quasi-mythological orbit of his own making. Like tightly knit universes unto themselves, his bizarre and wonderfully unhinged worlds feature a recurring cast of characters and repeated motifs. An intensely emotive painter who, by his own admission, allows his cathartic approach to dictate the development of his works as they’re made, Ueno’s take on pop surrealism is at times explosive and at others meditative, but is consistently seeking the reconciliation of darkness and whimsy.

Inspired by Japanese graphic cultures such as manga and anime, and drawing on the unique stylization of Japanese street fashion, Ueno’s graphic paintings are galvanized by his love of visual culture. Channeling both anger and optimism in the creation of his creatures and surreal landscapes, he seeks the transformation of the negative by invoking hope and positivity through his imagery, even when it betrays trauma and distress in equal parts. Ueno approaches painting as a communicative conduit, and as something powerfully invested with the capacity to make people feel. Because of this implicit responsibility, he has actively sought love and redemption in his imagery rather than indulging in destruction and sadness. Painting is a process of discovery for Ueno, one that he likens to scientific experimentation and unknown variables. He allows his paintings to evolve intuitively, not knowing what the end result will be.

His interest in striking a balance between light and dark imagery is immediately apparent in some of his more recent works. These manage to reconcile the suggestion of sweetness and innocence with the presence of something more sinister and foreboding. Wide-eyed, plushy, rainbow-colored characters are offset by skulls and abject anatomical references, and cotton candy landscapes are punctuated by the suggestion of something harder and menacing, or deeply melancholic. Despite a recurring invocation of love and hope that verges at times on a plea, the works clearly convey the coexistence of often irreconcilable oppositions. Ueno has spoken openly about how his work and imagery were greatly affected by the earthquake, and resulting Tsunami, that devastated Japan in 2011; an event that has left an indelible trauma on its culture. His work, following this tragedy, became less about his omission of negativity, and more about his attempt to summon love and hope in its midst.

The multiplicity of characters in Ueno’s works, and there are over a thousand, hails from the artist’s connection to Japanese Shinto; the polytheistic spiritual tradition in Japan that reveres the greatness in all small things in nature, and seeks the presence of the divine in the minute. In this belief system, there are millions of individual god figures, a veritable plethora of characters and personified energies for even the smallest of natural elements. Each individual part is as important as the whole. This spiritual pluralism is woven throughout Ueno’s work, as the artist builds complex symbolic systems, holistic worlds and recurring metaphors to reinvent a personal spiritual iconography.

Yosuke Ueno’s works, though beautiful, contemporary and graphic, are loaded with a symbolism that betrays the artist’s deeper spiritual connection to making. Giving his imagination free rein to create on impulse, Ueno builds a surreal cosmos with infinite possibilities.

yosuke ueno beautiful noise


Updated: New prints from Yosuke Ueno now available via Thinkspace

Yosuke Ueno 'Positive E no.06'

We’re excited to be publishing two new giclee prints from Yosuke Ueno in celebration of his Los Angeles solo exhibit currently on view at Thinkspace.

Yosuke Ueno
‘Positive E no.6’
16×22” paper size with 14×20” image area
Giclee print on Museo Portfolio Rag Paper
Edition of 20 + 3APs
Hand signed & numbered by artist
$100 each

Yosuke Ueno 'The Sound of efiL'

Yosuke Ueno
‘The Sound of efiL’
16×22” paper size with 14×20” image area
Giclee print on Museo Portfolio Rag Paper
Edition of 20 + 3APs
Hand signed & numbered by artist
$100 each

Order your print(s) here:

An interview with Yosuke Ueno

Yosuke Ueno at work on 'Visionary' inside his studio in Japan

Yosuke Ueno was born in 1977 in Japan, but might as well be from another planet. Bizarre, surreal and thought provoking, Ueno has been building upon his visual vocabulary since early childhood, having held his first solo show in Yamaguchi when he was only sixteen. Self taught and always moving forward, the main themes in Yosuke’s art will always be love, space and positive energy. His work is very cosmic in nature and features a great amount of recurring symbolism. The colors red, green, yellow and blue appear often in his work. These colors represent the four bases of DNA: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine (A, T, G and C) – molecular elements that all animate beings share. Yosuke paints these colors and A, T, G and C with a simple universal message that all animate beings should have equal worth.

Yosuke Ueno 'DODO-UN' - acrylic on canvas (2012)

An interview with Yosuke Ueno

Can you share a lil’ bit about your new body of work for ‘The Specific Illusion‘?
Before 311, the Tōhoku earthquake, I rarely expressed my anger at my pieces. The reason is that I had placed my art theme on the positive side of life. But in some pieces for this show, I painted my rage against the perfidious attitudes that the Japanese government and electric power companies have taken towards Japanese people.

Yosuke Ueno 'Melty Babel' - acrylic on canvas (2012)

Your show will open just a little over 1 year after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11th that has forever changed life in Japan. Is this bittersweet or do you find it liberating in a way?
The Great Earthquake and Tsunami that attacked eastern Japan on March 11th, 2011 and the resulting accident at the nuclear reactor in Fukushima are forever etched in our memories. 3/11 is an unforgettable day for all the people that live in Japan and Japan has suffered a great trauma. In fact, I have created many works that derive from these events. Our daily life has had to totally change since that day. I almost couldn’t believe that I am living the same world where we had lived before 3/11. Everyone in Japan now distinguish their lives as before 3/11 and after 3/11. I remember well staring at blank canvases, trembling with great fear remembering those days. The quake has brought a specific shape to my art that have had some obscure illusions. In other words, ‘The Specific Illusion’ is a special exhibit where I express my experiences “after 3/11” from various aspects of my life.

Drawing for 'Positive-E no.6' in progress inside Ueno's studio in Japan

What fuels you to keep creating?
Anger is my energy to create. There is no end to feel outrage in this world. I always face vacant canvases with furious outbursts; but finally sometimes my pieces have positive aspects such as joy and love, contrary to anger or fury that provoke me these days. I don’t know what kind of chemical reaction is at work between my anger and my work. I just move my mind and hands as I feel. And at the same time, I hope my pieces still hold some of my positive vibes in them. That is, in my thoughts I look at my artwork not only as “work” but also as a “device” that provide energies to the audiences. I prefer positive to negative ones, in terms of giving my audience such an experience, even if the energy that inspires me to work is my anger at our current situation on this planet we call home.

Yosuke Ueno "I Become Forest" - acrylic on canvas (2012)

Please describe your dream project if time and money were not issues.
I always do what I want, I mean, when creating my artworks. But there are some projects in my mind for the future. The major one is to design apparels. And another big dream of mine is producing a hotel, one day I would like to design all the interiors and exteriors of a large hotel. I sometimes imagine the hotel, excited to think about it!!!

Favorite item in your studio?
Some sweets and sparkling water. They always cheer me up when I feel tired ☺.

Yosuke Ueno 'I Am Forest' - acrylic on canvas (2012)

Is there anything in particular that you’d like to discuss or bring up here?
I would like to ask you, the reader, if you have you ever considered the energy sources that you are using in your daily life? Japanese people had no idea about the energy used for our daily life and we all had seemingly chosen nuclear energy without truly recognizing what we were using for our energy source. That is a result of being unconcerned and too busy in our daily lives. But nuclear plants have a great risk. Once an accident happens at a nuclear plant, that influence holds on for a long time, changing things forever in that area. In the US, a nuclear meltdown occurred in Three Mile Island in 1979. After that accident, there has not been any other nuclear power plants built in the US for 34 years now. But I’ve heard news that the US government has permitted a new nuclear power plant recently. I think now is the time to be concerned about our energy sources once again. So I would like to ask you, have you ever thought about what kind of energies you are using? Where the electric energy you are using at this moment to read this blog on the Internet comes from?

'Beginning The Forest' just completed inside Ueno's studio in Japan

Any shows coming up after your exhibit with us here at Thinkspace you would like to mention?
I’m going to take part in shows at Tokyo, Rome, Berlin, and Hong Kong later this year. Every show makes me excited to create, and I hope to continue to do more and more shows all around the world.

Yosuke Ueno 'Praying Fish' - acrylic on canvas (2012)

Come on out this Saturday, March 31st from 5-8PM for your chance to meet Yosuke & check out his new body of work.

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA /