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See the world flows without labeling it: Interview with Yuichi Yokoyama

After graduating from university majoring in oil painting, Yokoyama chose to draw manga which is widely known for his unique style. His manga doesn’t have a dramatic conclusion or touching ending. Simply, time passes by and things go on but in a dynamic or funny way. Yokoyama doubts emotions and words since it may prevent us from understanding our complicated sensualities. Yokoyama talked how he developed his style and how he captures the world. He suggests us to see things without labeling them. Not to label with human perceptions.

Yuichi Yokoyama in front of his works

Yuichi Yokoyama in front of his works

What happens before and after the moment

-Your book is categorized as Manga but your style is completely different from usual ones. Characters or objects keep moving and it ends without any conclusion. This is so interesting.

I first majored oil painting. Usually, people decide what to draw and take hours to depict it. However, I wasn’t interested in that. I wanted to draw “what will happen next?” or “why it became like this?” I was interested in what happened before and after the moment”.

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

For example, I first drew a rock with an elevator (above). Then, I decided to draw what happened before and after this scene and ended up with 24 page-manga. I finished it with 24 pages but can still continue. Actually, I intend to do so in the future.

-So do you usually start with one scene?

Not always, but yes, it’s usual.

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama "Room and World Map" at Arataniurano. Image on the right is use for the face of book "Room and World Map"

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama “Room and World Map” at Arataniurano. Image on the right is use for the face of book “Room and World Map”

- You didn’t put story lines in your manga.

No. I personally don’t read manga. This was the only way to express my vision. I didn’t have an interest in drawing beautifully or developing its texture. It could be fun. But I couldn’t have a deep interest in it. So I need to think what I should do. That is how I developed my style. But this is what I found afterwards. I don’t remember how exactly I started.

- Reading your books, I felt like doing chain imagination of what will happen next.

That’s good. Please enjoy in your own way. That’s the best.

- Time flows in your comic book. There’s no end with conclusion and it could continue forever. This is an interesting experience for readers.

Story lines are usually included in any mangas. But for me, I didn’t want to do that.

- After reading your books and when I walk in a city, the sight starts to look like one of the scenes from your book. Your perception hacks mine.

Ah, I know. It starts to look funny. That’s nice.

- How do you understand the “time”? You express it by the changes and movements of an object.

Well, otherwise we can’t express the time (laughs). Drawing a cup without any movements or changes can’t express time obviously. So that’s why I draw moving objects.

- Where does your inspiration come from?

Imagine that you turned on a television. You happened to see a drama in the middle, watch it for a while and turned it off since you needed to leave. Maybe it was 10 min of the entire movie but it may be quite interesting to you. It often happens to me. But when you see the left part of the movie, you may find it boring and not interesting as you expected.

I’ll give you another example. Someone is constantly interrupting our conversation. She continuously comes and picks up something on our table and goes back. That situation is really interesting to me. It inspires me to draw before and after of that moment. I want to draw these scenes. Manga is the method to realize that.

Infinite patterns of faces

- You draw many faces. There are infinite patterns.

I like faces a lot. I love it. I can think of as many as I can. I purely like faces. I recently found that other people are not as interested in faces as I am. Anything can be seen like a face for me. Even trashes or a garbage can could be.

Yokoyama does many rough sketches of faces. The man in picture is someone he found in a newspaper.

Yokoyama does many rough sketches of faces. The man in picture is someone he found in a newspaper.

Rough drawings from Yokoyama's note.

Rough drawings from Yokoyama’s note.

Close up look of Yokohama's characters. All faces are different.

Close up look of Yokohama’s characters. All faces are different.

- You like the structure of a face.

Right. Shinkansen bullet trains, cars and airplanes. Those have faces too. I love them instinctively.

- Do you put a character on each person in your mind?

No, I don’t. But, recognizing that I am actually redoing faces these days, I wasn’t like that before. I can’t deny that I am putting characteristics in some ways. This is not good but I can’t avoid it.

-Why do you use different faces?

Simply, it is because I like faces. It is possible to use the same person but I want to put many kinds of people in my work.

-Do you have your own rules not to use the same one?

It’s not really like that. I want to challenge my limit. I’m not chased by time. I have time to challenge my limit.

-How about the objects, like cars or airplanes?

I like large ones. Not a little human story but more enormous pictures. Large cool objects moving dynamically.

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

©Yuichi Yokoyama, Courtesy of East Press, ARATANIURANO

-Do you draw a draft?

I roughly draw the entire story. Details such as the shape and pattern of the airplane is determined when I draw on the final paper.

-How did you collage this work?

These are the pieces that I drew but didn’t use for my mangas. I simply picked or cut one face and mixed up with another face to make it funnier as a picture. It is quite a fun process, unlike the drawing process. I have tons of these pieces to collage.

Artwork by Yuichi Yokoyama

Artwork by Yuichi Yokoyama

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama at Arataniurano.

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama at Arataniurano.

-Why did you keep them?

I used to use it as my name card. I handed some little pieces to my fans too.

- Do you enjoy the process of drawing mangas?

I want to publish one manga book a year, but I couldn’t last year (in 2012). Drawing manga book is like a life work for me. However, I can’t enjoy the process at all. It is so distressing

-But collage is fun.

Right, I can enjoy since the book is finished! If I could draw 2 pages a day, I could feel relieved. That’s it.

There are many things that can’t be described in words.

- In some of your mangas like “Baby Boom” or “Travel”, the characters in your manga don’t speak, only sounds are the written words.

I wanted to create a deformed manga. If there is a picture but nothing happens, it can be a manga and art at the same time. There are pictures and words in a frame you can see. However, it tells you nothing. This is one of my ultimate goals. But it’s difficult to get popularity in this style.

- People prefer dramatic stories.

Ultimately, I want to go beyond the meanings. Usually, people enjoy meaningful stories. So if there is no meaning, people get bored all of a sudden. But I think there is more than that. I believe that things can’t be described with meanings or words. Ultimately, I want to show that. It is difficult.

-Can you tell me more about it?

People try to use words to describe. I think it is wrong. I think there are many things which can’t be described in words.

People think we can replace everything in words. I think most things are not described yet. We can’t exactly describe why this food is delicious. We can’t explain hot and cold to the people who don’t know about it.

Collaged works.

Collaged works.

I don’t trust human’s emotions. Emotions prevent you from finding interesting points.

-There is no expression of feeling in your work.

Ah, there is almost no emotion. I try not to express it intentionally. No emotional expressions at all. No smily face, sad face.

Artwork by Yuichi Yokoyama from his book "Room and World Map".

Artwork by Yuichi Yokoyama from his book “Room and World Map”.

-Why is that?

I don’t trust human’s emotions. It’s not something that I deal with in my work.

-That is really different from the typical manga.

You can’t put your emotions in my work.

For example, seeing me wearing a pendant, human beings may think “oh well, a middle-age man is wearing it.” But a cat won’t think in that way although we are viewing the same pendant. Cats won’t think “oh, he is cool or she is cute” like humans do. They might only care whether it is dangerous or not. I want to draw from that point of view. Seeing the world from a cat’s or a fly’s eye. Or even from a wood shelf or a chair down below.

-Ah, right, there is something that becomes invisible because of the emotion.

Right. Emotions prevent you from finding or sensing interesting matters. Ukiyo-e (Japanese traditional print in the 17-19th century) is drawn from a similar perspective. It is eliminating human’s emotion. Some are drawn from high above the city. Others are drawn from the ground, placing a hip of a cow in the center. It is fun to see things in that way. It is not a human’s perspective.

Japanese culture has a different and deformed perception of capturing the world.

-How did you develop your perception?

I learned oil painting which is imported from the West. I couldn’t feel right and wondered why. Oil painting doesn’t fit to our climate, materials are expensive and the canvas is big (to work in a small house). Moreover, they capture the motif stereoscopically. That is a Western perception. A Japanese ancient artist draws a shrine all in parallel lines. Its perspective is different from the Western’s. It is not a human’s perspective. I didn’t like that human-ness. I had these thoughts in the days before I’ve even started to draw my mangas.

-Western style of painting didn’t fit well with to you.

No, it didn’t. It was more like a physical and internal feeling saying “This is not what Eastern people should do. We can’t win.” It is not about win or lose but, if we don’t focus on what really suits us, it is just a waste of time.

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama "Room and World map" 2014 at Arataniurano.

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama “Room and World map” 2014 at Arataniurano.

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama "Room and World map" 2014 at Arataniurano.

Installation view of Yuichi Yokoyama “Room and World map” 2014 at Arataniurano.

I love babies. Even an adult still keeps a baby part.

-May I also ask about the work “Travel”?

I started my book “Travel” with from this scene (below). As I talked, I start from one scene and draw what happened before and after it.

Yokoyama started to visualize the scenes before and after this image to write his manga "Travel".

Yokoyama started to visualize the scenes before and after this image to write his manga “Travel”.

-Did idea of “Travel” come from your actuarial experience?

For ten years, I kept riding local trains alone from Tokyo to the Kansai area which takes 8 hours (instead of using Express lines which you can arrive within 2 hours). I saw outside of the window during the entire time. It is a dynamic spectacle for me. It is much more interesting than watching television for me.

And I wanted to incorporate this experience in my work. I imagined a man viewing outside of a window from a train. Then, I start to visualize what he is seeing.

-Why did you choose this page from the book “Baby Boom” for your print work?

It is because, this baby is the cutest! this one (below). This is perfect! This cuteness is stunning among all.

The bird "baby" that Yokoyama thinks it is the cutest ever. It is from Yuichi Yokoyama's book "Baby Boom".

The bird “baby” that Yokoyama thinks it is the cutest ever. It is from Yuichi Yokoyama’s book “Baby Boom”.

Yuichi Yokoyama "Boat (Part)" from the book Baby Boom

Yuichi Yokoyama “Boat (Part)” from the book Baby Boom

-What is cuteness for you?

That’s a difficult thing to describe. It’s similar to describing the taste. How delicious it is.

I love babies, any babies from human’s to animal’s. I asked my mother to have more babies when I was little. I love babies that much!

-Why is that?

It’s really adorable. However, I don’t want my own.(laughs)

-Until what age, do you regard as a baby?

Well, it is hard to say. To be honest, I think that even after getting old, people might not be growing up from a baby.

-People keep some child part inside.

I taught water color painting to elderly people two years ago. They were like a child concentrating on drawing. I imagined their childhood from each face.

It’s not connected to my work but makes me think of what is to be a human. I see adult’s childish behavior just like becoming a child again.

-Thank you.

Interviewed by Rasa Tsuda on June 22, 2013.
Partnership with ARANIURANO