Teiji Hayama (b. 1975), is a renowned Japanese painter based out of Giffers, Switzerland. He graduated from Central Saint Martin in London, in 1998. With his divergent thinking he puts his own twist on iconic people, in the form of his unique blurred style and repositioning of the eyes and sad-mouths, captivating the audiences, leaving us curious for more. He has received international recognition for his paintings, as well as being exhibited in New York City, London, Rome, Germany, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, and Los Angeles. His works are in the collections of the Maki Collection, the KAWS Collection, the Jean Pigozzi Contemporary Japanese Art Collection, Thomas M Kann, Eric Costa, Christian Leger and more.
Hi Teiji, thank you for sitting down with me. First question. You grew up in Kumamoto, Japan, but studied at Saint Martins College in London – and you now reside in Switzerland. What are the biggest contrasts between the art-scene and culture between those countries. Any noticeable differences?
Before moving to Switzerland, I spent 10 years in Tokyo, it’s very different from here where the life is slower and more quiet, Tokyo is a futuristic fast-paced, high-tech culture city but can also be peaceful with a traditional Japanese style culture and customs.
When did you start to draw and paint?
Since I was 15. I took art lessons at a drawing school in Japan for a few years.
Marilyn Monroe has been the protagonist in several of your paintings. What is it about her that fascinates you?
For me, Marilyn Monroe, is one of the most recognizable cultural symbols of all time, represents the mother of iconic images. She is like a “vintage influencer” of what has become nowadays influencers exposing contemporary issues connected to the evolution of various social technologies.
Please correct me if I’m wrong. Somewhere around 2019 you start to incorporate your recognizable trippy 3D tecnique to your paintings. Talk to me a little bit about that addition and how long it has taken you to perfect.
If you’re referring to the multi-layered images, I wanted to express the fragmented self of some people largely caused by technologies that increase social contact, a condition of being simultaneously drawn in multiple and conflicting directions. To demonstrate this, I created this multi-layered kaleidoscopic effect. It took some constant practice over and over again to be achieved.
Elvis, Elizabeth Taylor, Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe etc. have been the protagonists in your works. What is it about vintage Hollywood that today’s Hollywood is missing?
I’m not quite sure if they’re missing something, they’re evolving. Celebrities are celebrities, they adapt to their times… the celebs from the past would have been the same as the celebs of the present if they had all the media that we have. The only reason the ones of the past seem ideal, is they were able to have more a private life then the ones today… humans are humans…
You put a twist on iconic people, with your signature sad mouth. Talk to me a little bit about how you came up with that idea, and if there is any deeper meaning behind it?
The clown-like downward lip and tired eyes relate to the manipulation and hypocrisy on social media. They are used in a metaphorical and caricatural way to express how social media is fueling the growing obsession with fame, which is the driving force for some so-called wannabe celebrities. I wanted to express social media weariness by exaggerating some facial and body features I believe there’s an exhaustion that emerges from the attempt to maintain an ideal digital identity… which is often sustained by some people at any cost…
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not creating?
I’m never cut from art, always creating and looking for new ideas.
Last year you released your own NFT collections “Disconnection” and “Ultraconnection”. Do you have plans of releasing anymore? And what is your opinion about the rise of the NFT space?
I did release some other NFTs before that actually, but I don’t know if I will release more though. Even if it was fun to see my portraits animated in a 3D way, I’m not a digital artist and not even mentioning the climate controversy swirling around NFTs. There are way too many available with a mediocre quality in my opinion…
A lot of your recent works feature iconic Cartoon characters, incorporated into your vintage Hollywood icons – using your double layered 3D effect – which works extremely well. What made you come up with that unorthodox addition?
In creating hybrid caricatures, I tried to visualise the condition of being simultaneously drawn in many conflicting directions. I’m also using brand logos like tattoos on their bodies. I find the way some brands are using celebrities to grow even bigger, and celebrities using brands to gain exposure fascinating. With that in mind, my portraits are becoming some kind of superheroes and monsters at the same time.
Who is your favorite artist and why?
One of them is Andy Warhol, I love the way his works explore the connection between celebrity culture and artistic expression. I’m also a huge fan of Barbara Kruger.
What song do you listen to the most right now?
Who put you up to this? Sunflower Bean
For more information about Teiji, check out his Instagram