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Interview with Japanese artist – Natsumi Yagi

The exhibition was great and a success at JSFF! Many people came to see my work and couldn’t be happier about it.

FM42. Please tell us who Natsumi Yagi is and more about your artwork.
I was born and raised in the countryside of Japan until I was about 13 years old. Then I moved to Australia to continue my studies there.  I graduated from University with a bachelor of international development studies. Which led me to this NGO boat called the peace boat. I traveled around the world and learned a lot about other cultures, history, and politics, but the biggest lesson was about who I was as a person.  So when I got off the boat I wanted to try to be an artist. I had no idea where to start or how but luckily a family friend took me to an art exhibition. I saw this one painting and I fell in love with it. I asked around to see if I could meet the artist. I met her and said, “please you have to teach me!” She was a bit hesitant because in Japan that’s a very forward thing to do.  But she said OK, come to my studio and let’s see what you can do, and that’s how everything started.  My style has evolved over the years but the main concept hasn’t changed.  I have worked and volunteered for NGOs and charities so you can see a lot of political messages in my painting. My topics are quite dark, uncomfortable or confronting but to catch people’s eyes I use bright colors to get attention and to give hope to the situation we are in as humans.

FM42: When did you know this was your passion?

Art was always part of my life. My parents and grandparents are artists and had amazing paintings around the house that grew my imagination.
I started painting when I began attending high school in Australia and had a great teacher called Mrs Cutcher. She was an amazing teacher that taught us about history, culture, religions, different mediums etc but most importantly how to express ourselves and have our style. She helped me a lot going to a predominantly caucasian high school. I remember this particular conversation we had that changed me. I just learned in history class that Japanese people were called yellow in the second world war, I was shocked about it and asked if she knew about this. She said to me, “yes but Nats you’re not yellow my dear you’re Gold. “ And that was the moment I realized that perspectives can change how you think, how you act and how you believe. This gave me the confidence to continue my art throughout the years and keep the passion going.

FM42: We had a chance to see your artwork at the Japanese – Serbian film festival in Novi Sad. What are your impressions?
The exhibition was great and a success at JSFF! Many people came to see my work and couldn’t be happier about it. It was also a great opportunity to see other forms of art like films, animation, music and dance. But the best thing was the fantastic group of people I worked with and met on this trip to Serbia. People in Serbia are so warm and kind. Not to mention how strong they are after going through a lot in their history.  It was a bit of a shock to talk and hear many stories about the recent war. It’s not every day for me to hear people my age go through all that so it was very educational and made me appreciate my every life.

FM42: Where did you find inspiration for your work?
My inspiration comes from what is currently going on in my life or the world. Whether it is environmental, political or mental health it’s how I feel at that particular moment.

FM42: What is your favorite exhibition so far and where would you like to showcase your artwork?
My favorite exhibition has been my first-ever exhibition in my home town. It was super scary for me to show everyone my work and the criticism I might get.
But my art teacher gave me some great advice before the exhibition. She said, “Don’t listen to others’ criticism and also to praise, be true to yourself.”
That was great advice I will always have with me.

FM42: Do you have any plans for the future, are you working right now?
I have a few exhibitions that will be held in Japan next year but hopefully, I can do another international exhibition in the U.S. Or Europe again. This time in Serbia I could only bring small paintings but I usually do much bigger paintings so if I could showcase that one day that would be amazing.


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