Sacred symbolism and psychedelia are commonplace in the current culture circuit, so when it’s referenced in an authentic context, people pay attention. Tokio Aoyama, an acrylic-based painter from Japan, produces work, which is a prime example. Showboating surrealist visions, he has built up a vibrant portfolio of impressive projects, including album artwork for De La Soul’s 20th anniversary.
Music features heavily in Aoyama’s inspirations, obvious through rolling hilltop backdrops, which double as the keys of a piano, or speakers in the place of the third eye in the centre of a forehead. His depictions of joint-wielding skateboarders, multi-armed, afro-futurist figureheads, semi-familiar mythical creatures and cult icons like Bob Marley and Malcolm X are tangled together within sprawling canvases via optical illusion and vivid lines.
Born in Japan, Aoyama has painted from an extremely young age, but it was his first visit to America at around ten years old, which birthed a whole new pool of inspiration. The differences between American and Japanese culture, especially within street art, took huge influence on Aoyama’s work. Since then, his art has continued to evolve and change. He explains, “I know what works well together, but I also try to make uncomfortable changes with my work.” The ability to experiment has enabled Aoyama to create a diverse portfolio, which, though featuring an array of subject matters, displays a distinctly recognisable style throughout.
Aoyama attributes his influences to a number of people and culture-paths outside of art and music. Much of it is heavily political: the artist champions “Che Guevara and Ghandi” amidst names like Terrance McKenna. The spirituality, which practically seethes from his canvases, holds a more personal depth, though, as he claims, “spirituality is fundamentally connected to Japanese culture. It is a way of life for us.”
Due to the work of voluntary, culture-centric organisation, Ancient Future, Tokio Aoyama has been able to exhibit his work in London for the first time. The exhibition, which is held at the Hoxton Gallery and runs until September 6th, shows a huge portion of Aoyama’s work, including skate decks as well as his more familiar canvases.
Though the exhibition is almost complete, the future seems to hold exciting things for Aoyama, who alongside taking up the Ukulele, has begun to dabble in “other art styles like tattooing [and] sculpture.” The final day of Aoyama’s exhibition at Hoxton Gallery will finale with a live paint session with the artist, which will run from 6PM until 10PM. The atmosphere generated by surroundings featuring such strong symbolism and beautiful imagery is an exciting prospect for fans of this aesthetic. The opportunity to witness the artist at work is simply unmissable.