As the world reawakens; we’re tentatively working out what the ‘new normal’ means for our daily lives and experiencing the joy of seeing friends and family again. To mark this unique time, here at the Affordable Art Fair, we’ve decided to explore the theme of human connection, reaching out to some of our talented roster of artists whose work delves into the myriad facets of our daily experiences.
Meet self-taught Rikki Kasso, represented by Retrospect Gallery, who has travelled from his native city of New York, through Japan, and now lives and works in Byron Bay, Australia. Working in multiple mediums, Rikki’s work focusses on capturing voyeuristic scenes of joy and abandon, using traditional Sumi-e Ink.
Read on for more about Rikki’s practice and representation of human experience…
MEET THE ARTIST: RIKKI KASSO
Hi Rikki, could you tell us about your practice and what inspires your work?
My creative practice is just as nomadic as my lifestyle. I migrate through mediums and techniques with great abandon. Always experimenting and challenging my own capabilities. My work stays relative to the human condition executed in a variety of processes. These days I am exploring color and working on different applications of paint. Being self-taught is like being in school all of the time. As for inspiration, I take inspiration from the immediacy of my surroundings and cultural environment which has a constant tempo of change, sometimes willingly, sometimes situational.
You describe your work and art in general as being an ‘alibi’ to life; could you tell us more about this?
Essentially art is an alibi, a sensible excuse for doing ridiculous things. There is an unlimitedness in art that only a few experience.
How has the recent pandemic affected you?
In January, when the first reports started coming in from China, I was obsessed with gathering as much information as I could. I had a strange feeling that this was different to the other viruses like SARS which I experienced when I was in Asia. And my outlook was not as optimistic as usual. This kept me away from making art and filled me with a certain nihilism and existential angst. Then my Aunt in Queens NY contracted the virus and had our family on edge throughout her recovery (which she did). After that it felt too close and I stopped obsessing and decided to get back to work.
Do you plan to capture elements of this in your future work?
I have not directly planned to yet, but who knows. However, I do feel all of the works made during this time will have some sort of resonant historical value like the painters of the second world war. In retrospect they will have a deeper connection to the period.
Your artwork seems to reach out and connect with the people you are portraying; do you feel a strong connection with your subjects? Or are you trying to inspire connection between the artwork and the viewer?
It’s a combination of the both, a personal connection and a space for the viewer to share the exact same experience.
Having worked with photography for so long, connecting to the subject was crucial for me to translate a specific sensitivity. This essence translates entirely within my sumie ink paintings. Sumie has always been used by zen monks and masters to transcribe emotion and sentiment. Combining simple movements and gestures to create paintings of complex emotions and situations. An aura or moment is captured with very few interactions between the ink, water and surface.
Many of your paintings are set at the beach and you have called this location “the edge of the map”; can you tell us more about this?
What I love the most about living near the ocean is a visible divide of where humanity can exist. I think the subtle awareness of this fact helps keep me in perspective. Life is defined by its confines and creativity prevails out of restrictions. Simultaneously, you can easily identify where you are on a map of the world if you just go to the edge.
In so many of the scenes there is a sense of joy and the subjects being completely focussed on the moment. Do you hope that your viewers also get lost in the moment?
Absolutely! It’s something I’ve always been fascinated with, someone immersed in an act of self-pursuit resulting in pleasure. As we are all especially aware of these days; hardship and sorrow are a part and parcel of the human condition. Sometimes this is experienced alone, sometimes along with everyone in your community or country. So self-enjoyment becomes an act of escape from reality, very similar to the creation of art itself. It’s something that should be both celebrated and experienced by all.
What advice would you give to any aspiring artists reading this interview?
Art is both work and practice. The work part takes practice the practice part takes work. You have to be willing to accept crawling before walking. And then be prepared to run in circles and jump through hoops.
Huge thanks to Rikki for this delightful interview, we’ll be taking more time to mindfully observe the joy and absorption in daily life from now on. To browse more of Rikki's works, and fill your home with his zest for life, simply follow the link below.
Rikki Kasso's artwork in his studio space.
Featured art from first to last:
Profile image of Rikki Kasso.
Rikki's artworks in his studio space.
Rikki's painting in his studio.
Rikki Kasso, The Day Breaks, 2019, Ink, H 86cm x W 61cm x D 4cm, £1,250, Retrospect Gallery.
Rikki Kasso, Like Totally, 2019, Ink, H 41.6cm x W 21.1cm x D 0.1cm, £249 Retrospect Gallery.
Work in progress painting in Rikki's studio.