Interview with Japanese artist Koji Kamoji

Tokyo-born and Warsaw-based artist Koji Kamoji has lived in Poland for over 50 years. His art, shaped by both his Japanese roots and his Polish upbringing, reveals a truly contemporary aesthetic. Combining his interest in sculpture, installation and painting Mr. Kamoji resists a direct narrative in his artwork and instead focuses on the relationship between nature and the objects imposing on its man-made environment. Mystical and contemplative it distracts our senses appearing almost suspended in time.   

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
Q. You have been living and working as an artist in Poland for close to 52 years. Tell us how did you end up in Warsaw?

Koji Kamoji: My maternal uncle Riotsu Umeda was a translator and historian of Polish poetry and literature. In 1923, he left Tokyo on a ship to Berlin to continue his studies in European philosophy. During his voyage he met a young Polish man, Stanisław Michowski, and quickly became friends. After my uncle's stay in Berlin he came to visit Stanisław in Warsaw and stayed until the war broke out in 1939. He was evacuated by the Japanese Embassy and sent to the Balkans and then to Japan. He kept in contact with his friends in Poland, read Polish newspapers and while in Tokyo he exerted a strong influence on me. It was under his influence that I came to Poland because he wanted me to continue his love of Poland.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
And then what happened?
My uncle wanted me to study art history but I wanted to paint, so I painted and I paint still. I came to Poland in 1959 and studied Fine Arts at the University of Warsaw and spent almost my entire life here.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery

Did you ever think of going back to Japan at any point in time?
No. I met my wife really quickly and then our three kids were born. I set up my roots here and I had to work and earn a living, I had to study and and I had to paint.

Those were difficult times in Poland how did you manage?
Those were Socialist times but I met a good group of artists and after my studies, one of the founders of the Foksal Gallery, Zbigniew Gostomski, saw my abstract work and proposed to exhibit my work the following year at his gallery.

Photo: Tadeusz Rolke 
So, you achieved success rather quickly after your studies.
Yes, because right away I was discovered by one of the best galleries and here was the best environment for an artist. I was surrounded by Polish artists such as, Stażewski, Kantor, Lenica and many others. It was an ideal environment and I have been associated with the Foksal Gallery ever since.

Photo © Erazm Ciołek
Did you feel that you had the freedom to paint the type of work you wanted to paint in Poland when you began in the 70's?
Yes, because although Poland was a socialist country, there was still plenty of freedom and there were no barriers. There were also many artists coming to Poland from other countries at that time and there was an exchange between artists and their works through the gallery.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
Do you have a Japanese community here in Poland?
When I first came I was the only one here, together with my Japanese friend but we didn't even speak Japanese to each other. There are now I think around 300 Japanese people here in Warsaw.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
Do you keep up with your Japanese culture now and do you speak with Japanese?
Yes thanks to the internet, I read Japanese newspapers on a daily basis and I listen to the radio.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
When was the last time you were in Japan?
Two years ago.

You are a practitioner of yoga, do you find that influences your current work?
In a sense yes, because I also look for solace in art as I do in yoga. It has the same goal, much like meditation, it is very zen. Hence the name for one of my exhibitions, “Portable Zen Garden.” I thought that a work of art is like a window overlooking a zen garden in here and the rock which lies in the center represents reality. And the paintings are the perceptions of the world and they blend together on a symbolic level as gardens.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
Does that exhibition reflect a sort of nostalgia for Japan?
In a certain sense, there is something of that. One who paints is always searching for who they are, their roots. So there is a Japanese tradition in my work. I really like zen gardens and I often visited them in Japan, in Kyoto. And there is peace in there.

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
What do you want your audience to understand about you as an artist?
I want my paintings to convey peace, and happiness, because that is what I'm looking for myself, not drama, extreme emotions or controversy. 

Courtesy of Foksal Gallery
This interview originally appeared in Warsaw Business Journal.pl.

Artist: Koji Kamoji


Interview with Photographer Lee Oliveira

Brazilian-born and Sydney-based street style photographer Lee Oliveira has proven how quickly great talent and hard work can be recognized in the blogging world. Since starting his blog in May 13, 2010 Lee has traveled the world in search of great style and stylish people and now can proudly call Gucci a supporter. Since June 2011, he has been collaborating with the Italian brand as their official street style photographer by providing shots of people dressed in Gucci from around the globe. Clearly, his work is testament to the growing interest not only in street style blogging but the regular people who prove that true style is often found on the way to work and not just on the runway.

When you look at Lee's work you can see how street style photography is as much about the art of photography as it is about fashion. Lee's images are not only beautiful because they're spirited, youthful and stylish but also because they capture a spontaneous moment in time that may have been missed by all of those who love fashion so much. If you look closely you'll see exactly why Gucci has selected him to collaborate with. Lee's work exhudes the energy that engages fashion on every level. No details are ever missed because his eye and good taste can spot beauty everywhere. We can only wonder what Lee will have in store for us next year. Until then, enjoy this interview and selected pics and most of all make sure to visit LeeOliveira.comHappy New Year everyone!!!

1. What was your life was like in Brazil before you began blogging?
Ah... Brazil! I worked really hard when I was a teenager. I use to sell homemade custard bread on the streets of my hometown. Later I use to sell newspapers. As an adult I moved to a bigger city a few hours from my hometown and then finally moved to London.

2. What made you move to Australia?
Well, I met my other half in London quite a few years ago. The question was... he moves to London or I move to Sydney, now after 8 years, I call Australia home.  

3. When you travel do you have an idea of where you’re going to photograph or is it spontaneous?
I have a schedule of places I need to be and shows I get invited too. Fashion month is always on my calendar. I am also constantly with my camera to catch those random shots.

4. Which city impresses you the most in terms of style and why?
Two cities, Milan for style and Paris for fashion.

5. Are there any places that you’re still dying to explore?
Sao Paulo I know, but I would like to experience it during Fashion Week.

6. You’re surrounded by fashion, are there any designers that you wish more people would know about?
Yes, Australia designers Dion Lee, Alex Perry and Aurelio Costarella

7. Besides your camera, what are some things you can’t live without?
Shoes, lots of shoes, (hahaha).

8. What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
I don't normally have too many days off. When I do, I like to catch up with my friends... you know... movies, popcorn! I try to disconnect myself from fashion for a short time.

9. If you could shoot an advertising campaign for any designer who would it be and why?
Gucci. I love this classic brand. The attitude of the models is exactly what I hope to find on the streets.

10. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Have the best relationship with yourself! ... and... Dream! Never stop dreaming!

11. When it comes to your blog and photography what are you most proud of?
I am thankful to have an incredible amount of readers that I inspire on a daily basis. This is priceless for me.

12. What projects are you hoping to work on next? What projects are you hoping to work on next?
2012 will take me to a whole different level, exciting but can't talk about it at the moment” haha. I have few big things in the pipeline.


U Gallery: Where Good Art is Easy to Find

U Gallery is a great addition to the online art market where you can purchase original works at reasonable prices from emerging artists. Curated by a small team of art lovers the site really takes an easy approach in helping its users find the art they're looking for. You can filter your search in various ways depending on your taste and budget. So, in essence, you're bound to find something you like. The artwork on display here crosses over so many different styles and mediums that it's hard not to leave without a few favourites. Prints begin at $20 a piece while originals can reach the thousands. New works arrive each week so it's best to visit often or simply sign up for a weekly update.

1. Red Fish Blue Fish by Robert Darabos

The Champ by David Ballinger

Stark by Ina Christensen

Field by Jenn Bomar

Keeneland by Jesse Osbourne

Elephante 1 by Scott Dykema

A Narnian Winter by Valerie Chiang

Poppy #5 by Jee Young Choi


Weekend Links

I am slowly getting back to regular programming. The pic below I found via Otis & Frank, a blog well worth the visit. I only wish I could live near a bamboo forest like this then I would be much happier. As you can probably guess I have yet to make peace with the beginning of winter, hence my tendency to post all things green lately. Somehow, I don't think even retail therapy will help at this point. One must simply endure the cold.

Anger at Walmart heiress's $1.4bn gallery as art market becomes focus for protests (The Guardian)

Carine Roitfeld, ex-Vogue editor: 'Never ever share your daughter's wardrobe' (The Guardian)

2021: The New Europe (Wall Street Journal)


Peter Zumthor's Kitchen and the Green Grapefruit

Today's post comes by way of the Japanese Trash blog which drew me to an image of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's kitchen. As you can you see below it is sublime in its simplicity. I think if I had a kitchen like this I would probably not be able to work again. 

Mr. Zumthor who won the Pritzer Prize in 2009 resides in Haldenstein, Switzerland near Davos and the Austrian border. And much like any talented artist who shies away from the spotlight he is often described as "reclusive." He does not have a website and instead chooses to live in a small village in Switzerland. But in his most recent interview with the New York Times Mr. Zumthor talks about being commissioned to build a home for actor Tobey McGuire and his plans to revamp the Los Angeles County Museum. 

“I think the chance of finding beauty is higher if you don’t work on it directly,” Zumthor has said in describing his philosophy. “Beauty in architecture is driven by practicality. This is what you learn from studying the old townscapes of the Swiss farmers. If you do what you should, then at the end there is something, which you can’t explain maybe, but if you are lucky, it has to do with life.” (NYT)

The kitchen, much like an architect's studio, is a place of inspriation and I wanted nothing more than to cook after seeing this kitchen. But my quest for beauty found its way somewhere in between. And the closest thing I could find to the stunning greenery that almost eclipses Mr. Zumthor's kitchen was the green grapefruit that you see above. (I didn't even realize they existed.) So much for being a foodie. Given the lime-green colour, I was expecting something tart and bitter but this fruit tasted quite subtle. With a bit of honey on top it was just what I needed to inspire me to cook again even without the perfect kitchen and its accompanying beautiful view.


When fall is just around the corner

If you're lucky enough to still have warm weather you may want to skip this post, but if you don't, then these Smythe jackets may offer you some comfort. Personally, I wish I could have every single item from this label but that's not really possible now is it? Well, maybe, just one day I'll have at least one. For now, I'll put them down on my wish list.

I like this one too. But I wonder if either jacket would be warm enough to survive the winter? Hmm...perhaps they could partner up with the UGG company for a few limited edition pieces that could combine the pure warmth and comfort of UGG and the chic style of Smythe. Am I dreaming here? Probably, but then isn't that what a blog is for?

I don't know about you but I've always loved the fit of New Balance shoes, they're as great for walking as they are for playing tennis. And it doesn't hurt that they look good too, or at least they used to. Until J.Crew came out with this grey pair, I really thought I was going to have to look elsewhere. Hopefully, they'll come out with some other winning colour combinations and designs sooner than later otherwise I moving onto Puma.


My New Discovery: Bioderma + Weekend Links

I don't usually write about beauty products because I like to keep things to a minimum. But when it comes to skincare I love discovering a product that works. And this Bioderma cleanser is just amazing. Made for sensitive skin, it is incredibly gentle and at the same time, completely removes all of your makeup without any irritation or feeling of tightness in your skin. It also has some anti-inflammatory ingredients that really calms stress-out skin. I noticed a difference in my skin very quickly and I highly recommend it. I know it is already popular in Europe and especially among makeup artists but I've noticed it's also available on Amazon so you can always try ordering it online. I also wanted to add that the best part about this cleanser is that it doesn't require any rinsing.

Ten Things I’ve Learned over 12 Years of Sending Out Stories (The Millions)


Put this on the Shopping List (Fast Lane - Financial Times)


A Man's Guide to a Woman's Wardrobe (Intelligent Life)


20 Artists Pick 20 Contemporary Artists who have Inspired Them (Intelligent Life) 


What's on around Europe (Wall Street Journal)


Jerry Saltz on de Kooning  (NY Magazine) 


Fall Pumpkin Recipes (Saveur)

The Race to Bring Over a Japanese Best Seller (Wall Street Journal)

And Hate Begat Hate (NYT)

Fish Restaurants in Europe (Wall Street Journal) 

The Minimalist: The Simplest Roast Chicken (NYT)

How to Cook the Perfect Pizza (Guardian)

Free market exposure (WSJ)

Butternut Squash and Tahini Spread (Guardian)

The Bulgogi Slider is a Delicious Curveball (NYT)

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka Recipe (Guardian)


The Art of Buying Art Online: ArtStar

There is something to admire and appreciate about websites that do all the work for you and Artstar is just one of those sites. Even if you already have a good eye for art, you most likely do not have the time to go searching through the countless number of names and galleries that exist to find the ones you want. Luckily, Artstar's curators do all the work for you. Their team of specialists are highly skilled and erudite in different fields of art, and bring together a wealth of experience. Most importantly, these behind-the-scenes art makers know how pick artists with something clever and beautiful to offer. And much like 20x200, Artstar offers prints and originals at affordable prices (with prices for prints starting from $25 to $450). Here are just a few of my favourites.

1. Michael Schall

2. Firelei Baez

3. Liu Jin

4. Han Bing

5. Meena Hasan

6. Christina Dixcy

7. Zaria Forman

8. Tian Taiquan