‘We don’t know why, but we have to run’ | Julien Vinet and Naoya Inose

We speak to artists Naoya Inose (Japan) and Julien Vinet (France) about their upcoming collaborative exhibition at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta – organised by the Jean De La Valette Foundation, a Maltese-French cultural initiative for which Vinet serves as artistic director

Naoya Inose (left) and Julien Vinet
Naoya Inose (left) and Julien Vinet
Almost Blue by Naoya Inose
Almost Blue by Naoya Inose
Illustration by Julien Vinet
Illustration by Julien Vinet


When did you first decide to become an artist, and what led to this decision?

Actually, my dream as a child was to become a particular kind of artist – a movie designer. This was mostly due to the fact that my father was a cameraman who worked on feature films, so I had some experience of the film world as a kid. I eventually decided to become an artist after I attended the Tokyo University of Art, where that path started to feel natural to me. 

What was studying and working in Tokyo like? How would you say the art scene differs there, when compared to other places you're lived and/or exhibited in?

The Japanese scene is distinct from other places I’ve come into contact with, particularly in Europe. First of all, in Japan we don’t distinguish between fine art and applied art (or ‘crafts’). This is why young Japanese artists go through a rigorous training process in the craft, rather than the concepts – which seems to be the driving force of the European scene.

Would you say you have recurring stylistic and/or thematic obsessions, and if so, what would these be?

I suppose that pretty much every artist has some kind of obsession. In my case it’s all about extreme detail – I struggle to incorporate as much detail as I can in my paintings. Because I’m Japanese, the ‘craft’ aspect my technique takes precedence.  

What led you to Malta, and are you looking forward to exhibiting on the island? Have you got any expectations about it?

First of all, I want to show my art works all over the world. But Malta holds a special place in my heart because it was the first country I took a long holiday in when I was younger. Somehow, the island still feels very familiar to me, and I’m very comfortable in Malta.

Secondly, my aim is to import Japanese art to Malta. Unfortunately young Japanese artists don’t travel abroad all that much, so I would like to blaze a trail for them if possible.

Could you tell us a little bit about what you'll be exhibiting at ‘They all did tomorrow...’? How would you say your work ties in thematically with the aims of the exhibition?

The concept of what I want to say in the show is that, recently, most people seem to live according to the ‘nature of the world’ system.

This is similar to the Caucus race by Alice in Wonderland.

People don’t know why we have been running in circles. This results in us not seeing or noticing the real world.

“What IS a Caucus-race? said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

Why, said the Dodo, the best way to explain it is to do it. (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)”

The race can be seen as very similar to our situation. Nobody knows why, or who controls our world. People just run and run in circles. We don’t know why, but we have to run, like in the Caucus-race.

What’s next for you?

My next show will be in Japan and London also in Singapore.



What first got you into the visual arts, and how did you evolve your style over time?

I was a kid when I decided to live my life through my pencils. My parents always encouraged me to develop my artistic skills as long as I wanted to do, so to choose this life is for me something very normal, perfectly in line with the path I took years ago.

I graduated from Paris VIII in Fine Arts, and then did a specialisation at a private design school (Jean Trubert) in design and cartoons. That’s when I found my own style. At the beginning my work was very comic book and cartoon oriented but with time and the accumulation of experience – especially in Japan – I diverted from this world to dive into art.

My first exhibition was in Tokyo in 2006 and from that moment I always wanted to produce more on a constant change of scale and on different themes. Now that I’m in Malta, with the great influence of the splendid light we have here everyday, my work that tended to be more black in Japan, became very bright.

My whites are henceforth strong, prominent and determinant in my compositions.

Do you have any persistent obsessions as an artist? Any recurring motifs and themes in your work?

My work is always in black and white, and my medium is always the same: Japanese ink mixed with different kind of glues and oils. I love this medium and it became an obsession over the years. My work at ‘That’s all they did tomorrow But you finished yesterday’ is an example of this fascination I have for Japanese ink.

I made concrete and solid installations out of this preparation, which is usually almost intangible and ethereal for the viewers. Black and white and my medium are the only obsessions I have.

The theme is not relevant to me if it doesn’t come naturally to my mind, and it changes all the time. I try to keep evolving as much as I can, creating a world in two colours.

How would you say your work fits into this exhibition in particular? How do you contribute to the conversation this exhibit is trying to start?

My work doesn’t really fit into this exhibition graphically or aesthetically, but the theme here is what connects Naoya and myself. Surrealism is the link between his incredible miniatures and my installations. Frankly, as the director of the JEVA, I wanted Naoya to make a solo exhibition but because he had never put one up before, he was slightly nervous about the prospect.

So he asked me to put something else up along with his works. My usual paintings wouldn’t have fit there, so we decided that I would go for small installations: Levitation I, II & III.

Floating ink splashes were my way to associate my work to Inose’s.

What do you make of the art and culture scene in Malta? Is there anything you would change about it?

The only thing that we would want to change is the way art, and especially contemporary art, is perceived by the general public. It can’t just be an elitist scene, but a popular one, so that anyone would be allowed to enjoy the different avenues of expression that art offers to us these days.

This is why JEVA is covering a large spectrum of disciplines: to democratize artistic sensibility, and to give a choice to everybody to find the art that suits them the most.

What’s next for you?

At the moment I’m working on a new exhibition that will take place in The Power House, next to the Magazino, on the waterfront, for next October.

This exhibition will be then displayed in Los Angeles. I’m also working on an exhibition to be held in Tokyo for the end of 2015.

‘That's all they did tomorrow But you finished yesterday’ will be on display until June 28 at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta

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