Hubert Burda Media


Up-and-coming Japanese painter TOMOYUKI KAMBE shares his creative inspirations and admits that he does not really know what a hobby is. By Dazzlyn Koh

For one whose works are part of the Japanese Imperial Family’s private collection and attracted great attention from collectors in Paris and Japan, Tomoyuki Kambe remains exceedingly modest. Describing his success simply as “an honour”, he leaves it at that.
Recently in town to grace the opening of his exhibition at atomi, a Japanese lifestyle and furniture store in Mandarin Gallery, and the Japan Creative Centre, Kambe comes across as extremely courteous and soft-spoken. His passion for his craft becomes evident when we begin to discuss his most beloved subjects: Art and nature. Gesturing animatedly with his hands, he shares through an interpreter that his inspiration flows from the surrounding abundance of nature. “I believe just as the world is made up of a multitude of microscopic creatures, our society similarly draws on a variety of smaller components for direction and shape.”
Famed for his water-themed works, Kambe describes his art as a “[presentation] of the past in a modern form”. He uses the traditional Japanese nihonga medium fused with a modern art creation technique: An intricate process of layering and texturing with materials such as gold and silver foil, Japanese washi-paper, ink outlines and natural mineral pigments. When asked who inspires him, Kambe answers without hesitation, Jakuchu Ito, a famous artist from the Edo period (1716-1800) known for his paintings of – you guessed it – scenes of Nature.
Kambe has a gentle, unassuming air which makes him instantly likeable. Perhaps it is this positive trait, combined with his exceptional talents that have placed him on the fast track to artistic stardom ever since graduating from Tama Art University in 2001. Hailing from Gifu City in Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, his works are highly sought after and have been showcased in numerous exhibitions throughout Japan and America. Notable exhibitions include those held at the National Art Center in Tokyo and the Clark Center for Japanese Art & Culture in California.
He is also part of the elite Shinyusha art collective group in Japan, led by the Princess Akiko of Japan. Although exclusive in its admittance – only the very best Japanese artists may join – Shinyusha’s outreach program is nothing but inclusive: A campaign to preserve Japanese culture and arts for children through a range of traditional art-related activities. Being so involved naturally bestows Kambe with strong opinions on art education.
“Artists don’t just make their own works. They should be involved in society. I feel that in society these days, people do not know how to observe art. [For example], in Japan, we have a lot of art forms but when it comes to art education, we tend to focus on how to make things. It would be good if people learn how to observe and appreciate art.”
Opinions aside, Kambe is a man truly devoted to his craft. He has been involved in a long string of seemingly endless projects and exhibitions ever since fame found him. For a man who lives and breathes art, it is no wonder that he looked momentarily lost when asked about his non art-related hobbies.
“I’m not sure what a ‘hobby’ is. I like to read and listen to music, but while doing so, I start [thinking] about art again”. To Kambe, his art is his pleasure, his work and his hobby all in one – a total devotion which is admirable, almost enviable.
After Singapore, which is his first stop in Asia, Kambe will be exhibiting his works in Venice in June. Autumn will see him returning to Japan to continue his Shinyusha activities at the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in the Fukuoka Prefecture where he will present a collection of classical sliding door paintings of the Rinpa tradition. Although his activities are centered in Japan now, Kambe hopes to extend his art to an international audience in the future – that of which is certainly, good news for us all.
Tomoyuki Kambe’s works are available exclusively at atomi, level 4, Mandarin Gallery.