An Interview with Tokio Aoyama

Inspired by surrealists such as Picasso, Dali, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Tokio Aoyama also channels through his art the essences of peace, ascension and love, embodied by musicians such as Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Sun Ra, as well as celebrating the free-spirited nature of artists including Miles Davis, Sly Stone and Basquiat. Tokio’s art is his soul and the philosophy of his life and he has been kind enough to answer some questions for PsypressUK in the run up to his forthcoming exhibition at the Hoxton Gallery in London.

What is it about art that first drew you into becoming an artist?  Furthermore, who and what have been the biggest influences on your art since?

I painted Al Pacino about 12 years ago and that was my first canvas painting with acrylic paints. I remembered how I was struggling with controlling my brush on the canvas, at the time I felt as if it was so different from painting on paper with watercolor but I stuck to the canvas. Many, many artists influenced me but Salvator Dali and Mati Klarwein were my biggest influences.

Initially, you were doing work on album covers. How did this come about? And which covers have you been most proud of and why?

Mike from Mello Music Group found my art on my MySpace page. He was interested in me doing art for his label. He also introduced me to Georgia Anne Muldrow and Declaime aka Dudley Perkins.  I’m proud of all the art covers I have done but ‘The Message Universe’ by G&D was special to me. It was my first album cover art. I knew and loved their music before and I was a big fan of theirs so I was excited about doing an album cover for them, doing the cover art for their album eventually gave me more opportunities down the road to work with other musicians.

Can you describe how your work has been influenced by the psychedelic experience, perhaps giving an example of when this has happened?

My first psychedelic experience was about 10 years ago with my homies in Seattle, we took some mushrooms. The colors and the light kept stimulating my eyes and brain. Even when I closed my eyes, the colors appeared on my head.  I tried to paint a couple of times while taking the mushrooms, but I couldn’t, I was so tripped out by the colors at the time.  I was heavily into reading books like ‘Food of the Gods’ and ‘True Hallucinations’ by Terence McKenna. These books inspired me a lot. I only did mushrooms several times and I haven’t taken any recently. I realized that dreaming in night is another psychedelic experience to me now. I am not trying to paint psychedelic art just some people see my art as psychedelic.

In your opinion, what roles can the psychedelic experience play in aiding artists in their work?

I believe that any kind of experience is helpful for artists. Taking drugs is not going to help the skill but the vividness of colors seen when taking psychedelics can open up the imagination a bit for the artist. 

What are the sorts of messages that you try to put across with your art?

Each painting has different message or story. It’s more like a message to myself or questions to myself Does God exists?… or Evolution?.. or somebody made us?… Are there Aliens?… What is happening in this world? and so on… some don’t have messages at all. I paint what I feel cool images or an interesting image.

Other than art, how do you like to spend your creative time? And to what extent does this feed into your painting?

Getting more knowledge and experiences from traveling and reading books. It really inspires my imagination and ideas and it motivates me to paint.  I also like to hang out with my homies and exchange opinions.

You must be very excited to be exhibiting your work at the Hoxton Gallery. How did this come about? And, in choosing art to display, what themes are you going to concentrate on?

Yes, I’m very excited and this will be my first time visiting London.  Darren Springer who hosts events, lectures, and seminars in London contacted me on Facebook, and we decided to do my art exhibition in London.  He’s a very nice guy. I would like to give my thanks to Darren as he has prepared just about everything for me in regards to my art show in London. Thank you Darren! I will try to bring paintings that have a strong sense of ethnicity or spirituality.

Tokio will be exhibiting at the Hoxton Gallery, London between the 22-28 August 2012. More details can be found here.

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