THE EYES HAVE IT IN THESE MESMERIZING IMAGES
Story by Mariam Magsi
Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Keita Morimoto is an artist currently painting in Toronto. Morimoto’s work is illusionistic with a three dimensional feel. His primary subjects are women, and as you scan his work, the first feature to jump out at you is a pair of haunting, beautiful, soulful eyes.
Large, usually dark and exaggerated, the eyes then lead to transiently painted hair, and a face comes into view that has been depicted with an ‘anime meets modern art’ quality. Even though Morimoto exaggerates certain features and carries a surreal quality in his work, the subjects do not lose their authenticity, and his extraordinary skill shines through in the perfections/imperfections of his women.
Plaid had the opportunity to sit down with Morimoto to discuss his passion, inspirations and future goals with painting in Toronto and around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I moved to Canada from Japan in 2006. I have always been passionate about Western painting and its history. I enjoy creating work that can merge different historical and cultural art forms.
Let’s discuss your formal education and how you began painting.
I was highly influenced by the Dutch painter, Rembrandt. When I saw his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I had a strong urge to make paintings that contain an illusionistic quality of his work.
At what point in your life did you decide to embark on painting as a career?
I have never perceived painting as a career, but it is something I enjoy doing. So I guess it does have to be a career if I only want to paint and nothing else.
Your subjects are primarily women. Why?
One of the reasons I paint women is because I’m personally more attracted to female features. I would like to paint more males in the future but it requires further research on how males are portrayed in various art forms.
There is a deep fixation with exaggerating the eyes of your subjects. Can you tell us the reason for this?
I want my figures and palette to be slightly distorted [and] exaggerated so that the blending of Japanese and Western aesthetics would come through in the subtlest manner.
What mediums do you enjoy engaging in while painting?
I enjoy painting with oils. They are easy to work with and are extremely efficient in creating the three dimensional effects seen in my work.
How has your work evolved over the years?
When I lived in Japan, the only form of art I was familiar with was drawing manga. After being exposed to a number of European and American artists in museums, I managed to remove almost every trace of my original influences, namely, anime and manga. In the last couple of years, I have been attempting to return to my roots while holding onto material adopted from a different cultures.
What is the importance of painting in today’s day and age?
Painting [and] image-making might be an old-school way of expression, but it has always existed in our history. More than anything, images ignite in me sensations; no other art form does.
How is the market for paintings in Toronto?
I think Toronto is still a growing city for art in general. I know many artists who do make a living solely with their paintings, so there seems to be a good enough demand for paintings.
What challenges have you faced as a painter in Toronto?
I have never really had any external challenges, though I do think painting itself should always be a huge challenge.
What are some art movements and artists that inspire your work?
There are many artists that have influenced me. To name a few: Rembrandt, Bouguereau, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Morandi, Uglow, Hayao Miyazaki, Lisa Yuskavage, and Will Cotton would be some of my main influences.
Would you consider moving yourself and your work to other art capitals of the world, such as New York City or Berlin?
I would still like to learn about other cultures and arts, so yes. Kunstakademie Düsseldorf would be the first thing that comes to mind.
Any upcoming projects we should look out for?
Please share some words of wisdom with up-and-coming painters in Toronto.
I’m not wise enough to give any advice. I would just say, experience lots, learn lots, and be kind!