NORTH ADAMS — For Hideyo Okamura, abstract art works the same way as classical music. Neither is intended to represent anything concrete, but both elicit an emotional response through composition – either sound and rhythm, or color and brushstrokes.
Okamura, an abstract artist, aims to keep his pieces open to interpretation.
“I’m not interested in dictating [that] this painting is about that,” he said. “People can feel it and with their knowledge and experience they can react to my painting. Art is communication between you and others.
Born and raised in Japan, Okamura has spent his entire adult life in the United States. After earning an undergraduate degree in art, he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.
He and his wife, Sara Farrell Okamura, now live in North Adams, having moved from Chicago to the Berkshires 26 years ago. He said he took early retirement from his job as director of exhibition design and planning at the Williams College Museum of Art and is now a full-time artist. His work was recently exhibited at Bernay Fine Arts as part of “Lines and Colors” and can currently be seen in the Poker Flats “Feelings are Facts” exhibit in Williamstown.
Okamura recently took the time to answer a few of our questions.
1 Why are you drawn to abstraction?
Basically, I’m not interested in figurative art. My painting therefore does not speak of something. It’s not like a flower painting per se, which is good too. But I’m more interested in the physical property of this material, like the paint itself — the lines, the shapes. If anything, I’d like them to represent themselves, so to speak, not another image. I’m a very visual person, obviously, and I like to see things, but my interest, when I paint, [is that] I want lines to be lines, brushstrokes to be brushstrokes, nothing more than that. I also understand that my way of painting is linked to my way of thinking and the way in which I am influenced by the vision of my environment.
2 What inspires you to draw a certain line or make a certain shape?
[It’s] intuitive as jazz improvisation is. I don’t have a pre-planned idea of what it’s going to be like. I may have a vague idea, but it doesn’t necessarily end like this. I’m responding to what I just put on the web… A bit like jazz improvisation — you listen to other musicians playing something, and you respond to it. So it’s like a call and a response.
3 What is a day in life for you?
Being an artist a lot of people don’t think about, but there are a lot of things to do besides painting. You have to run a website, you have to post on social media. It’s great to get the image out there for people to see and react to, so I post a lot on Instagram… Besides running day to day… you’re a one man business. You have to promote yourself, go to openings and see the other shows.
The one thing about the pandemic was that I think it didn’t bother a lot of artists because you’re usually at home painting, doing art. So it’s not like you miss going out somewhere. Artists are usually in the studio doing things. So it wasn’t difficult in that sense. But I was going to be in a show, and that got canceled, and we couldn’t have any studio visits because of the pandemic, so it was difficult in terms of [finances].
4 How many hours per day does this leave for actual painting?
The thing about art as an artist is that it’s always in your head. It is [a] 24/7 work, because you’re always thinking about it. You may not be doing it, but you’re thinking about seeing things on the outside, you’re thinking about the kind of relationship you have with that visual experience, and how that might translate into your work. .. But you have to be disciplined because it’s so easy not to do it if you don’t feel like it…
there is something good [cleaning] sometimes. It’s not that I like to clean, but you can accomplish something where a work of art is – you can finish a painting, [but] it does not mean that you accomplish something in this direction.
5 Have you ever talked to people about their interpretations of your paintings?
My wife mentioned, sometimes she looks at my paintings, and she thinks they’re realistic, so that’s something very interesting to me. I have nothing recognizable apart from the shape and brush strokes, but nothing really recognizable. And I think it’s like that on Instagram too. People who like my work, I look at their page, and many of them are portrait painters or realistic still lifes [artists].