Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hard In the Paint: Interview with Live Paint Team Doppel

One really distinct thing about Japanese hip hop shows and parties is the frequent inclusion of a live paint, which is just what it sounds like - painters producing art live.  Most often, the painting takes place over the course of three to five hours, slowly progressing, and giving things a real three-ring-circus feel, especially in certain of Tokyo's big clubs.

Doppel is a two-man team, Baki Baki and Mon, who have been doing live paint events together (as well as separately) since 2001.  I saw them in March at Superdeluxe, where they did an unusual and compelling timed paint – they gave themselves exactly 20 minutes between acts to complete what turned into an elaborate, Ainu/Inuit inspired painting of a rearing horse-like creature.  The timed element made it even more entertaining than the live paints usually are.  The questions here were answered by member Mon (Koutaro Oyama) on behalf of the group.

Q: Were you originally inspired to do art by graffiti or hip hop?
A: The motive to start painting was separate from hip hop.  Basically, we were both mostly inspired by Japanese manga and anime.  But after starting, hip hop has had a huge influence on us.  At the beginning, more than American graffiti, we were really influenced by KAMI and DELTA, graffiti artists from about two generations before us.

Q: Is Live Painting mostly done at hip hop shows?
A: We do it at shows in all kinds of genres.  The first thing we did was a Drum and Bass party.  Of course, we do a lot of hip hop shows, but also a lot of techno, house, and other kinds of dance parties.
Q: Have you ever done street graffiti?
A: Yeah, we do all kinds of tagging and stickering.

Q: Have you done other ‘timed’ events like the one at Superdeluxe?
A: Yeah, we did a 20 minute set at a party called HUOVA.  As far as we know, that’s the first party to use that sort of time limit.

Q: I’ve seen similar Live Paint events happening in Cali.  But it started in Japan, right?
A: We’re not sure whether or not it started in Japan.  Graffiti artists have probably been writing at parties for a long time.

But our genre isn’t graffiti per se, it’s live painting [specifically].  After we started doing live paints, we met this guy named Heavyweight from Canada, and we were really influenced by his style.  As far as Japan, Live Painting is a scene that started from the clubs and spread out.  That’s why we use brushes and paint instead of spraypaint (spraying in a club can get rough).  Now there are live paint artists all over Japan.  We got started very early in that history.  As far as artists doing live painting specifically, we were really among the first.

Q: Before a show, do you practice? For example, in circumstances similar to the show?
A: Almost never.  Even when we practice, it’s not really connected to a [specific] show.

Q: At Superdeluxe, you painted together.  Did you have a plan?
A: To a certain degree, we had a course of action.  That was for the series called “Chimera.” At the Superdeluxe show, we’d only chosen that the lower half of the body would be a horse.

Q: At that show, the picture eventually became a horse [My mistake – a horse-like chimera].  It was suspenseful, though.  Do you do things that way for the enjoyment of the audience?
A: Exactly.  Depending on the order you lay down the details, a live paint can be dramatic, or it can be boring.  Our ideal is that watching our shows will be just as exciting as watching sports.

Q: Is acting or performance important to the Paint?
A: It’s not important.  We’re never acting.  Sometimes we’ll shout or throw our hands up to get the crowd going, but it’s really not important.

Q: After the event, what happens to the paintings?
A: We keep them, and put a protective coating on them or frame them so they can be put on display.


Information about Doppel can be found at:

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