Artist molds memories
in clay on Tokyo residency

New Zealand Artist Richard Maloy recently returned from a two-month Foundation residency at the prestigious Youkobo Artspace in Tokyo. In this interview he describes his time at Youkobo and the work he created there.

Watch a slideshow of images from Richard's time in Japan

Can you describe your initial impressions of Japan?

In the first weeks of arriving In Tokyo, I was struck by the way things work in terms of architecture and public space. The city was so ordered clean and tidy and the people so respectful of others.

Creative design solutions were embedded in every aspect of the day, and the consideration of others and the ‘collective’ created a city that seemed to function fairly and in an integrated way with the people inhabiting it.

What was the residency itself like?

The residency space is of two halves. The first, a traditional living space complete with tatami mat tea room/ sleeping space, with paper sliding doors that led out to a central courtyard (nicknamed the Tokyo Jungle). 

The second space, the studio, is a large industrial open space with high ceilings and full of natural light. Also, within the residency is a studio for local artists to work and another live-in work space for an international artist, plus a writer’s apartment.

Can you describe the works you created there?

I created a durational video work, one that records my daily actions with clay found from the studio, which combines my interest in artist archives and performative actions. 

Daily, I recorded my physical making with the clay, working from a memory of an art work I have physically seen in my past.

The memory is a starting point for the making, in that I am not creating a replica but more trying to both remember and fashion a re-thinking through a physical action.

I am also interested in how the work when shown will present back elements of the artist studio during the making process and production.

What attracted you to doing a residency in Japan? Why do you think overseas residencies for artists are important?

Residencies are important as they give artists time, funds and a structure that they might not otherwise have access to. To engage in a place, people and culture beyond what they might have from looking from afar or visiting as a tourist.

I was attracted by the opportunity to spend a longer amount of time in Japan, one where I could make new work with the influence of a new place and culture, one with a different historical framework to re-understand what I do and why.

My interest in Japanese art was sparked in the early 2000s when I was introduced to it through the Govett- Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre exhibition Mediarena: Contemporary Art from Japan. I met several artists from the show, attended the talks and openings, and some of the works from that show, like Tadasu Takamine’s God Bless America, I consider major early influences. 

I think it also helped that last year I exhibited in Hong Kong as part of Encounters, the curated section of Art Basel, and re-connected with some of the people and art works I first in encountered at the Govett.  

How do you think being in Japan will influence the work you create?

Already there are subtle changes within how I have set up and implemented the production of this work, from incorporating views into the garden where you see weather and daily elements, to some of the actions taking place on the floor in a designated area the scale of a tatami mat.

I think the bigger changes happening now are from thinking about the context of what I do and why – a re-examining of my personal art history of sorts, influenced by people, shows and reading.

I am particularly interested in Murakami Saburo from the Gutai Group and am currently reading about his extraordinary life and art works. I also have a sense that there will be changes within future projects and how I approach things artistically.

Can you briefly mention some of the highlights of the residency to date?

Highlights are the people I met – artists and my amazing hosts at the residency.

Also, visiting the local museums, art galleries, temples and historical buildings around Tokyo and further afield in Kyoto, Naoshima and Teshima Islands (museum islands).

Standouts would be Naoshima Island’s Chichu Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando with key installations from Walter De Maria and room of Claude Monet water lilies. Naoshima even had an onsen (bath house) designed by artist Shinro Ohtake, a must do after exploring the island art sites by bike.

An additional highlight was the New Zealand ambassador Stephen Payton attending my opening night and following that up with a lunch at the embassy, complete with a tour of the grounds and art collection.