Shingo Yamazaki

Shingo Yamazaki (b. 1985, Honolulu, HI) studied at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and received a BA focused in Painting in 2014. His work is has been shown in a recent exhibition at Sow & Tailor, LA; Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston; and Richard Heller Gallery, LA. Yamazaki has been a recipient of the Innovate Grant, and a finalist for the Hopper Prize. He has been featured recently in publications such as Flux Magazine, New American Paintings, and more. Shingo currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
December 13, 2023
Tell us about your practice.
My practice generally revolves around the complexities of cultural hybridity, identity, and the meaning of “home.” I draw resources from a mixture of cultural nuances, iconography, and personal history inspired by my upbringing in Hawaiʻi and more recently my migration to Los Angeles. By intertwining personal history with the familiar rhythms of daily life, I transform domestic spaces into vessels of collective identity, inviting viewers to partake in these dialogues of everyday existence. 
Your recent body of work often shows a “barrier” between the audience with the figures in the painting. Can you tell us a bit about the significance of this approach?
There are a few symbolic gestures from these “barriers” that are significant to my recent body of work. I have been thinking about untold narratives that previous generations felt compelled to contain and the lack of generational history for those who are part of the diaspora. These thin veil-like transparent layers of paint act as a physical layer of history and a symbolic means to merge figures and objects. Through the push and pull of these translucent layers, the work simultaneously allows and denies access to the viewer. In addition, the merged imagery through translucency creates a state of in-betweenness, tying into the theme of cultural hybridity that I’ve been working with. 
What’s your approach in selecting objects to depict and arranging them into the paintings’ composition?
My approach involves carefully choosing items that bear personal and cultural significance from my upbringing, and building a connection with personal stories and historical context. I choose certain objects that have gone through migration, and assimilation that have evolved through history, and a great example of that is the Aloha shirt. The Aloha shirt has been an interest to me because its popularity through films in the 1950s-60s helped solidify its place as a staple garment in Hawaiʻi. The exact origin is unknown but what’s known is that Aloha shirts were originally made by local Asian tailors in Hawaiʻi that made shirts out of kimono fabrics in the 1920’s or 30’s. These locally adapted products have been a constant source of inspiration for me as a way to share my cross-cultural history. 
Most of your work depicts scenes of domestic life, can you tell us about the significance of this approach?
Well, exploring these domestic scenes allows me to dive into the intricate space where personal and cultural narratives intersect. Whether it’s someone lounging or cooking at home, these seemingly quiet moments make up the majority of our daily lives. Emphasizing these intimate scenes is a way of recognizing the importance of seemingly mundane moments. The home, in this context, transcends being just a physical space; it becomes a source of identity, a way of shaping our sense of self. By highlighting these quiet moments, I aim to prompt people to reflect on what “home” truly means to them. 
What has been the reward and challenge you’ve encountered in drawing from personal narratives/images?
It’s been rewarding for me to find the amount of individuals who resonate with the imagery. I realized there are multiple ways that our experiences intersect with each other, allowing conversations and dialogue to take place. It’s been about 5 years since I moved from Hawaiʻi to Los Angeles, and it’s been very rewarding to find that my work speaks not only to those from Hawaiʻi but to a broader audience. 
In contrast, the challenge has always been describing these cultural nuances, and the kind of subtleties through family photos and objects. I’ve constantly had to confront and accept the lack of generational history that has been passed down to me while using that as a catalyst to make more work. 
What has been inspiring you?
Lately, I’ve been inspired by hikes and trails, the natural forms, and the flora and fauna of spaces that I’ve traversed. I’ve also been re-visiting ghost stories/folklore of Hawaiʻi, which have a lot of cross-cultural influence. Fabric and textiles have also been a constant source of inspiration.  

Stay in the loop