For the last three decades, Yoshi Sodeoka has been bridging the worlds of fine art, music, film and editorial illustration with his multi-disciplinary digital practice. Known for his hypnotic and complex moving images, the New York-based artist has exhibited internationally from the walls of the Centre Pompidou, to Tate Britain’s, MoMa’s, The Whitney Museum’s and so on. And that’s just an example of his ventures in fine art.
In 2013, he co-founded the experimental video art collective Undervolt & Co and amidst being commissioned by The New York Times, Apple, Nike and Adidas, to top it all off, he’s also collaborated with Tame Impala, Psychic TV and Beck, amongst others. With such a wide-ranging stretch of clients under his belt thus far, Yoshi’s work is unsurprisingly difficult to categorise. “A lot of people always seem to describe my style as psychedelic of some sort,” the digital artist tells It’s Nice That. “And I really don’t have any issues with that. But honestly, I don’t even think about fitting into any genre or group, it feels cheap to describe my art in words.”
To describe or rationalise his work in lengthy amounts of text feels somewhat “weak” to Yoshi. Instead, he prefers not to have the exact right words to describe what his art is about. “It’s just what it is: unprecedented and uncategorisable,” adds Yoshi on his mind-bogglingly eclectic range of work. Trained as a painter as a teen in Japan, he moved to New York in the 1990s to study the discipline at Brooklyn’s prestigious Pratt Institute. But upon discovering Macs along with a few graphics programs during his studies, he became “totally fascinated” by the emerging technologies and has been making art using computers ever since.
“My primary interest has always been experimental video art,” explains Yoshi. From this exploratory starting point, his practice has spun off and evolved into different facets of the imagination. From music videos, live concert visuals, editorial illustrations, album artwork and video installations; as long as a project feels like it makes sense to Yoshi, and as long as he feels capable of tackling it, the final outcome of a project is totally irrelevant.
“My most recent obsession is making intricate digital video feedback graphics for both videos and stills,” he goes on to say. Using a hacked technique he devised himself in After Effects, this experimental process “does a lot of unexpected things and I just can’t get enough of it.” He also adds: “I receive a lot of messages from people asking me how to do it but I just don’t have any simple way to explain it. Someday, I will have to come up with an hour-long tutorial on how to do it.”
Aesthetically, Yoshi draws from all kinds of inspiration in his work but time and time again, he consistently goes back to the visual culture of rock music to steer him in some way. With a background playing in bands and still creating music as a pass time today, for Yoshi, “music is something I understand and feel comfortable with. I see colours and shapes when I hear sounds, and for this reason, I also enjoy working with musicians too.” Citing the visual art of prog and psych rock from the 70s and 80s, he credits Roger Dean and Jamie Reid as a particularly poignant influence. But it’s not just the visuals that have had an impact on Yoshi, “I’ve learnt so much about the way of life from the punk rock ethos, for better or worse.”
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