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Tokujin Yoshioka's Waterfall

The Japanese artist tells us about some of his career highlights and nature influencing on his Sydney expo

In a career spanning nearly 25 years, Tokujin Yoshioka has collaborated with everyone from Apple to Issey Miyake, his work has appeared in the likes of the V&A Museum and New York’s MoMA, and he has no fewer than ten international awards to his name. Not bad for someone in their mid-40s. With his latest show set to bring him to Australian shores for the first time, Yoshioka here reflects on his career, his influences and what it is about art and design that continues to fascinate him. 

Dazed Digital: Have you always been interested in design? What is it about the field that excites you?
Tokujin Yoshioka:
I made up my mind to be a designer when I was six years old. Design fills the possibilities in life with hope. The world of design is filled with dreams, and that is what makes it so wonderful.

DD: You’ve been involved in both artistic and commercial projects over the years. Do you feel more like an artist or designer?
Tokujin Yoshioka:
It’s not important for me to clarify if I am a designer or an artist. Rather, the works I create are categorised into design, art or architecture after their completion. I always have a solid idea of what I would like to express first rather than having the category, then I let it be categorised by each viewer. What is most important to me is for my work to inspire or talk to people's hearts. I simply continue to create work in the hope of having an impact on as many people as possible. I want to make people happy, move their emotions. That comes before anything else.

DD: Is it difficult to balance your artistic values with the constraints of commercial work?
Tokujin Yoshioka:
Certain requirements are encountered in collaborations, yet I don’t perceive them as limitations; I enjoy developing my ideas under those conditions. I always try to create works that make people feel the characteristics of the companies I’m collaborating with.

DD: You have worked with Issey Miyake on many projects for almost 20 years, do you share a common design approach?
Tokujin Yoshioka:
While I was collaborating with Issey Miyake, I learnt that design is not formulated by a single sense of values but exists freely amongst various values. I also believe design is free by nature and there is nothing in design that says certain things must be a certain way. One does not know what the extremes are and, actually, there are no extremes to begin with, because design is like a living creature.

DD: Much of your work, including your upcoming 'Waterfall' show, draws on imagery from the natural world. What is it about nature that fascinates you?
Tokujin Yoshioka:
I believe nature is the ultimate beauty in this world. The sunlight, soft breeze, and the harmony that leaves create; the variety of essences in nature touches our emotions. I’m not trying to reproduce those elements but I am trying to recreate the feelings that people experience when they perceive nature and I am trying to integrate those elements into my designs.

'Waterfall' by Tokujin Yoshioka opens at Sydney’s Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation on October 7 and runs until December 17, 2011

Text by Jake Millar