We had the pleasure of interviewing SINGULART artist, Adam Norgaard, to talk about his background and experience as an American expat artist in Japan, as well as his inspiration and the process of his figurative paintings.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m an American artist who has been working in Japan for the past eight years. I grew up on the East Coast of the United States. After moving to the West Coast, I began taking Japanese lessons and grew more interested in East Asia. In my junior year of high school, I lived with a Japanese family in Kawasaki and realized Japanese culture was nothing like I’d imagined.
After studying painting and printmaking at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, I felt my Japanese skills declining. I wanted to move to Japan as an artist to immerse myself in the Japanese language and pick up from where I left off. So I made the move after graduation and have been based here ever since.
How would you describe the kind of artwork you create?
Playful and imaginative. It is the product of adapting to a different culture. Sometimes I work with themes, but a lot of times, my work is spontaneous. I gravitate towards portraiture but enjoy experimenting. This year I started to branch out and challenge myself with several new series.
Who or what are your sources of inspiration?
Being an expat is an excellent stimulus for frequent inspiration. Japanese aesthetics have inspired me a great deal. Some of them include mono no aware, wabi-sabi, and uchi-soto. Every now and then, I visit a new Tokyo gallery or museum when I need immediate inspiration. I also get inspired by surrounding myself with many inspirational artists on social media.
Are there any contemporary artists at the moment whose work you admire?
I admire all artists who enjoy their work. You can tell it comes from the heart. This year I discovered the work of Yvonne Jacquette. She would take short helicopter rides to paint aerial views. She came to Japan to paint some cityscapes of Tokyo.
I also admire my friend Tatyana Ostapenko. She’s a Ukrainian American artist raising relief funds through her brilliant paintings of life in Ukraine.
What’s the most rewarding material you work with, and why?
Oil paints. They’re perfect for building up layers. It’s really fun to start with fluid, thin layers and work your way up to thicker layers. They take a long time to dry, leaving me with time to contemplate how to proceed with the work.
What is your creative process like?
Typically I’ll start with a concept sketch, and I keep the sketch rough. After I paint the first layer on the canvas, I work by complimenting the colors and shapes. I mix my first color carefully because subsequent colors are based on the first one. I finish the painting when I know an additional layer wouldn’t improve the work. Usually, I rotate between works while waiting for a piece to dry.
Are you working on any new projects right now?
I’m working on two series: Tokyo Blues and FaceTime. I was motivated to start Tokyo Blues based on my recent observations of mass commuters in Tokyo. This series conveys the collective mindset present in homogeneous Japan.
The other series FaceTime is based on the concept of “Technological Singularity.” I heard about the term earlier this year. It’s the idea that technology is evolving at an exponential rate. I thought it would be fun to paint my mobile phone into this series and look back to see how things have changed down the road.