Kensuke Koike (*1980 Nagoya, Japan), produces distinctive art pieces by editing discovered vintage photographic materials. For the artist, each artwork begins as a puzzle waiting to be deciphered, with every picture presenting its own distinct obstacles.
When and how did you start working with photography?
I started working with photography by chance. I was living in a small apartment in Venice while I was attending a painting class at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. My roommate asked me to stop painting because the oil and acrylic paints smelt bad, so the next day I went to get myself a video camera to change the medium.
What were the subjects you first took photos of and why? How did that change over time?
I always liked surrealism. I thought that photos are mirrors of the real world; so I started transforming them into something surreal while always preserving a taste of reality too.
You moved to Italy from Japan for your art studies and still live there today. What fascinates you about Italy?
I chose to come to Italy at a very young age because I wanted to see and experience the history of art in this country. Before my move, I only knew about Italian art and culture from books. There were so many masters like Leonardo Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Botticelli that fascinated me. So I decided to move to Italy to see and experience their work in person.
How is the Art scene different in Italy and Japan?
It’s difficult to say for me because I was educated as an artist in Italy and therefore I could be considered an Italian artist from some point of view. Of course, there are some differences that exist between the two countries. It is just too difficult to simplify these in a few phrases.
Your work often incorporates found materials and images. what draws you to these elements and why? How do you decide to choose a specific photo from the flea market?
I nearly always work with old photographs. I don’t collect these photos based on any criteria; I only want to save some pictures that are going to be destroyed or forgotten about from the flea market.
Can you share with us an experience or moment that significantly impacted your artistic journey?
As a child, I was always afraid of horror stories: I watched a TV drama, where a dead girlfriend appears in the mirror of her boyfriend’s house and tries to pull him into the mirror. He manages to escape outside, where there is nothing that reflects anymore but then a hand comes out of a puddle of water behind him. This is where the story ends…
After this incident, I was really afraid to look into the mirror and feel a presence behind me. But magically, I noticed in Italy, all these kinds of fears disappeared. Why? Because I was afraid of Japanese creatures and these creatures could not follow me abroad. That was a nice discovery for me and I began to wonder why people are so attracted to horror stories and why other people exploit this fascination.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on large-scale projects, but they will remain a secret for now…
What kind of projects would you still like to do in the future?
I would like to make many small mock-ups, upscale them, and see how people react to them.
In your opinion: How will photography and art evolve in the future?
Once photography only reflected the real world. Now with AI-generated images, we’ll hardly recognize what is real and what is not anymore. I think that means photography has become just another medium.
Is there a project you are especially proud of and why?
I still like the work I made in 2015 “Over Their Dead Bodies”, a portrait of Mona Lisa made by many circles extracted from a vintage photo of a group of ladies. It took me a long time to make this artwork but I could prove my theory to be true: That from each photo I can extract everything I want or need. In this case, I wrote an additional short story to justify the image. Hence every work I do has a story behind it, I just don’t write them down all the time.
How do you decide if a piece of work is a success or not?
All my works reflect my awareness. It can be very personal but I soon lose track of the reasons I made them. It is only when I see my works again that I remember what triggered them in the first place. This helps me understand if what I have done is still meaningful; and if so, this means that perhaps it’s meaningful to the viewers too.
At which point in life did you realize that you wanted to be an artist and how did people react to it?
Becoming an artist or not is just a result of my life’s path. In my case, I just followed my whim because I’m very curious. If you do what you like and it brings you to a place where you are called an artist, it means that what you’re doing has significance to other people.
What kind of advice would you like to give young or emerging artists?
Do what you really want and that’ll be the right choice. If you truly love something – pursue it. We’re almost 8 billion people in the world. You’ll always find someone who will be interested in your work.