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Nepenthes NY set up the Artist Spotlight to delve further into the work showcased at the store. In this special series, we interview the artists involved with the show. We ask them questions about their art, the exhibition, and what New York means to them.


Manabu “GAKU” Inada - Artist Spotlight 

1. Please tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from? When did you come to New York? What does New York mean to you?

I grew up in Kichijōji, Tokyo, Japan. It's a compact town about 20min away from the center of Tokyo. Many cultured people live there: artists, actors, writers, musicians, and lots of college students.  The vibes there are low-key and unpretentious.

I came to NY in 1992 after I graduated from art college in Tokyo. Then I attended art school in NY. 

To me, New York means Muse, Protagonist, Trickster, Villain, and Friend.  A Character who provides a source of inspiration. And yes, she knocks me down so many times. But somehow, I manage to get up and keep moving forward.


2. Please tell us a bit about your process. Why this medium? How do you choose our subjects? Is there an overarching theme in your work?

Screen printing has a long history, dating back to China and Japan in the 900’s AD. Then, in the 20th century, technological innovation was cultivated in England and the United States, where it became popular commercially. I am interested in the origin of screen printing. At that time prints were colored with a brush in a stencil-like manner on the fabric.

I think that by printing on the daily-use fabrics and viewing it objectively as art, something is created that will have an affinity with the viewer. That's why I chose the ripstop I'm using this time. 

The theme of my works is related closely to our daily life. It strives to capture the rhythms, bustle, and beauty of city life.


3. Is there a message or narrative that you would like to communicate through your art?

In NY, you come across various situations just by walking on the street. It's people, buildings, transportation. And often, I see two mysterious, simultaneous events that make no sense in parallel. It looks like a trace of a momentary intersection of parallel worlds. It seems there is a hidden message. The imaginary stories and messages that appear in my work come from that. It's an expression familiar to my video work, but I want to make work that gives a vague sense of pathos in everyday life too.


4. Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?

Many of the elements that capture the various moments of everyday life in the city appear in my work.  The expression that anthropomorphizes the city is also an essential factor.

A rooftop water tank is a specific element that frequently appears in my work. When I first moved to NY, I first saw a water tank through a gap in a skyscraper, and since then the wooden tank has seemed like a character to me, and I have made many photographs and sketches using this motif. I often think of a short story about a man who lives in a water tank.


5. How do you source your inspiration? Where do you find the creative drive to continue making work?

As I mentioned earlier, the most inspiration is from the streets, but the others are surfing and skate culture of the late '80s. Old industrial design, NY historic architecture. Art movements such as Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism, the movies Taxi Drivers, Blade Runner, Seven Samurai, and jazz and experimental music influenced. I always play music when I do work, and recently I especially like Sam Gendel.


I make print works as an artist, but I also create video work as a film director. The idea of video work translates as print work, and the print work is visualized, alternating between media. I feel that the creative style is the reason for advancing production activities.


6. Please tell us how you became involved with Nepenthes New York.

When I started surfing about ten years ago, I met Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments. From then on, Daiki would pick me up in his car every weekend to go surfing at Long Beach. We would chat on the way to the beach in the car, starting with the wave conditions of the day, art, music, clothes, literature. We talked about NY art and cultural scenes from the late 80's to the early '90s. I knew that Daiki was making clothes, but I didn't know the details, and at first, I met him as a surf buddy. One day I visited his office and was impressed as an artist by seeing his shirts and jackets designed with the functionality and beauty of work, military, and hunting-wear styles. Inspired I made a self-produced short film called "Not Designed But Engineered." From there, I directed/produced a short film of Engineered Garments' first and last runway show at Hell's Kitchen in 2013, as well as a collection of brand videos. After that, I became involved in various aspects of production, such as artwork printed on clothes and textiles.