Tomokazu Matsuyama and The Standard Go Global ... Snow Global

Feb 22 2012

Tomokazu Matsuyama’s work is both wild and controlled, figurative, yet abstract, steeped in Japanese iconography – both ancient and contemporary – but also specifically American, cowboys and indians, bucking broncos, and Jackson Pollock. We saw this and thought … let’s make snow globes together. And thus it was born, a unique edition of 30, 8” tall glass and wood snow globes, handmade with acrylics submerged in water, the uniquely Western souvenir as seen through the Japanese born, California bred, New York based, former snowboard professional turned painter and sculptor, Matsuyama.

Each globe base is signed and numbered by the artist. They go on sale tomorrow (Thursday 2.23.12) at The Standard Shop at The Standard, New York accompanied by a new original painting installed through March 30th. You can also buy one now at

We spoke with Matsu about his art, snow globe construction, and where to snowboard in Japan.

Standard Culture: You grew up between Japan and California. Went to business school in Tokyo and design school in Brooklyn. Now you live in Williamsburg. Which city do you most feel at home?

Matsu: I’ve been in NYC for over 10 years. Even though I have lived in various places, my biggest influences have happened while living in New York. I feel home here … although I’ll always miss Japan.

How long were you snowboarding professionally? Where’s your favorite place to board?

For a few years, but wasn’t competing much, was more doing magazine shoots and jumps. Since snowboarding was just one aspect of my lifestyle. My favorite place to ski was my local mountain in Japan, of Hida-Takayama.

Runnin’ Deep by Tomokazu Matsuyama (2008)

Speaking of snow, what is your first memory of a snow globe? They originated in France. Did they ever become popular in Japan? Are you a snow globe collector?

I don’t think I ever saw one growing up. It’s more of a Western thing, and I was brought up in a very rural part of Japan, so, no snow globes. This one I have made for The Standard is pretty much my first one.

How do you get the stuff inside the globe? Did you use regular water to fill it?

The water had to be a purified water, and to avoid any bacteria coming in there are few drops of bleach. As with the content they are glued on the lid of the globe. The artwork looks quite big. This is because the water in the sphere magnifies the content by over 150%. The insides are made of die-cut plastics carved in Chinatown, here in NYC. I didn’t want to use the typical painted mold you see in the gift shop. I wanted to stay away from getting too “classy.” I wanted a hybrid of classical and contemporary. After multiple tests, it was clear fluorescent colored plastic die-cut with engraving would work the best. It may be difficult to grasp in a photo, but in person, it’s really a unique small sculpture. Each and every globe has a unique and different composition and hand painted base.

There seems to be a long tradition of snow in Japanese art. Thinking of Pine Trees in Snow by Maruyama Okyo, 36 Views of Mt Fuji by Hokusai, or in your piece Runnin’ Deep. What does weather convey to you in painting?

I guess painting weather is a starting point for the painting, rather than trying to portray the entire view or a scenary within the canvas. Asian art has an aesthetic of trying to paint what is outside of the composition.

You have a very interesting process in your image making. In your monograph, it is described as starting with Abstract Expressionist type painting [think Jackson Pollock] and then finding form and figure from there. Is this your way of controlling the chaos? How do you feel about chaos and control in general? There’s sort of a controlled chaos in a snow globe. A mini blizzard that obscures the scene, but it is controlled within the sphere, and very peaceful at the same time.

Thanks, that’s a great compliment. I’m not so sure, how much I am able to control the chaos, but starting abstract has typically been my process. I have been heavily influenced by gestural paintings and improvisional art. The viewers may find very little connection to my work as they look quite graphical or pre-composed on a computer, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I use a lot of gestural techniques, however, I didnt want the gesture itself to become my artwork. This has already been done. I wanted to appropriate my influence so it could serve to something completely different.

The painting on the left will be installed at The Standard Shop until March 30th