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10 Questions: Haroshi

HAROSHI is a Japanese artist who makes sculptures out of recycled skateboards. His art pieces focus on bringing together disparate pieces, where each element whether cut out in different shapes or kept in their original form, are connected in different styles, and shaven into the form of the final art piece. With such an approach, Haroshi very clearly has an intimate understanding of skateboards, both on a cultural and physical level. For anyone that knows his work and has seen it in person, you just need to take one glance at a piece and realize how much work and skill went into each construction. Yes recycled skateboards are a huge trend nowadays with many people moving in, creating skateboard glasses, jewelry and much more, but Haroshi’s work is so unique that when you see something he’s made you automatically know who is the one who constructed it.

“They’re his communication tool with both his self, and the outside world,” says his brief biography online. If that’s true, there is something very unique and beautiful that is being told through his artwork, and it just so happens we were so interested in who the man behind the sculptures are that we sat down with Haroshi and talked to him about life, his work, and his connection to skateboarding.

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{Image via Freshnessmag.com}

Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing?

I was born in Yokohama and then moved right away to Tokyo. After that I have always lived in Tokyo. Then I went to school and started learning how to work doing accessories. Then I stopped that and started producing my own pieces of work.

When did you first start skateboarding? 

In the town where I grew up there was a park famous for skateboarding, and there is where I started skateboarding when I was 15. My first skateboard was a girl’s Jovante Turner’s model. It was yet the time where decks are thin and wheels are little. But if we want to be more detailed, when I was 8 years old I produced a skateboard together with my grandpa. And I drew a thunder bolt on it. If I think about it now it was very cool.

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When did you first start exploring art as a medium for communication? Do you feel that being Japanese has had a heavy influence on your work?

When I was a kid I had a poor health. So at that time what I could use to express myself was things I used to draw myself. There was nothing more than that, which could stand out. I also drew a lot Dragonball characters. In my opinion art is a communication tool. But at that time I didn’t think about it as art. At that time I would think that Japanese like stuff was uncool. More then shrines, Buddha statues and so on, I used to think that Coca Cola’s logo was much more cool. Because you don’t wear a T-shirt with a Buddha statue printed on it, don’t you? I really thought is was for losers. But when I came to my old 20′s I was finally able to understand Japanese traditional things. Maybe because I started going abroad. After that I was much more able to see and understand it. Now I can say I have been affected by the fact of being Japanese, or more precisely by being a human being grown up here. Because all my tools are here.

How did you first realize you could use skateboards for your art work? 

Originally I was producing accessories as a job, but I felt bad about it. I had to produce things perfectly the same one to another in large quantities, so when something used to come out differently I would spring out to my frets because of inspections. Because even if I thought making all different things was much more interesting I had to produce things all completely the same one to another. Because I thought that more than making something as a machine, making something by my hands that was completely different to each other was much better. So that is why I thought of starting something on my own. That is when my partner looking at old skateboards piled up in an angle and told me “how about you make something from that?” From that I have been producing stuff from skateboards for 10 years.

How long did it take before people started paying attention to your pieces? 

The first time people noticed me was my first exhibition in Tokyo, Aoyama “skate & destroy”. At that time I would think “this is going to be terrific, this is going to be talked out!” but no one talked about that. I had no relations with people in Harajuku and celebrities, I was just a skateboarder.

That period was quite delusional, on what to expect from this world. It was about 7 years since when I started producing pieces of works, maybe? So I wasn’t really expecting anything. Because you know, on my first exhibition I was able to sell at least one piece and I thought that it was really lucky! At the opening many of my friends came and as always I thought, well I won’t be noticed as always.

But more than saying that one of my works was noticed, the pictures for this exhibition started going around the world and spread around, and before I realized I had become famous. I thought it was a joke. My friends told me that on Twitter something great was going on, to have a look. But I never looked at Twitter, so I didn’t know. So that is how I got noticed.

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Can you briefly walk us through the process of how you put together a few of your pieces?

“Skull” was produced by sticking together skateboard decks and carving them. While “Love” was made by cutting things like dots and making a collage out of them.

We saw your work in the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York, how did everything go with the exhibition? Do you get to travel to New York often?

I go to NY just when I have exhibitions. I love that city. The exhibitions are always well received and I am very satisfied. But in the near future I want to give a try to a different exhibition with a different approach.

How would you say that skateboarding has affected the approach and style to your artwork? 

I am often asked about this, what skateboarding taught me is that going on with ideas full of freedom you will be able to do everything. Skateboarding itself isn’t something you learn going to school, right? We learn how to ride thinking for ourselves on how to do it, so every way is fine, it is important to find our own way to do it. I often think this, but maybe more than learning how to make pieces of art, it is much more difficult to learn how to ride a skateboard lol.

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Do you have any projects that people can expect in the future? 

The next projects are almost all projects I can’t speak about. But it’s going to be large! But I got an exhibition for this year. I want to surprise everyone!

Any advice for people out there?

I wan’t everyone not to give up. I really think this. About every kind of thing. Me too I kept giving up and getting delusional but I thought to keep going on for 10 years, so if also this was to go bad, then I would have positively started something else. The most difficult thing is to keep going on with one thing. It’s not just about producing one piece of art.

Now, I think that is normal that some people around me can’t understand me. But going around the world I understood that there are many people that can understand me. I realized this in 10 years. More then I thought, people around the world are always looking for interesting things and people, they are checking everyday for this. So that is why I wish others not to give up.

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