Growing up in the 70s and 80s the only art I was exposed to was on album covers or movie posters. Those two decades represented some of the most explosive colour pallets for generations, tumbling from the psychedelic age of the 60s. So when I was introduced to the art of Tokio Aoyama I was transported back to my childhood and too the trippy images that filtered through to me via music and movies.
On one of those rare summer mornings, where coffee has to be iced and people dust off their shorts to bare pale legs, I met with Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama to discuss The Loop, Tokio’s latest London exhibition. Tokio is quiet and unassuming, not at all as flamboyant as his art. Yet, his modesty hides a very eccentric painting style, a little like dreaming on angel dust.
‘I started painting when I was little. I took a graphic design degree in America, Seattle, but I didn’t like using computers to create art, so I quit and began to develop my own technique’, he said. ‘I collected old record covers and I’m inspired by 60s and 70s psychedelic paintings, but I am also influenced by Japanese mythology, space and music. I take themes from everywhere and put them together in my work’.
There is a sophisticated exploration of global spirituality in his images and their fusion with music creates a feeling of modern shamanism.
What is unique in Tokio’s revamping of these psychedelic art forms have an Afro-centric dynamic. He has reproduced images of music’s Black elite, as well as freedom fighters, such as Malchom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Che Guevara.
This new exhibition is in collaboration with Grammy award winning, fusion hip hop artist Shafiq Husayn. ‘I’ve created a painting for each song on the album, including artists like Erykah Badu and Bilal’, he told me.
The exhibition is at the Hoxton Gallery from the 1st to the 11th August and will showcase sixteen new pieces from Shafiq’s album, as well as seven new pieces from his Dogu series. Dogu are traditional Japanese clay statues, which Tokio has recreated in glorious technicolor.