INTERVIEW WITH BIJIJOO


In touch with materials: Experimentation and the journey of visual innovation.  

 



AA00

Where did the name come from?


B

I’ve always been into tagging and have always gravitated to the letter B and words that start with the letter B, I don’t remember why. That morphed into Bija, which means seed and Bijijoo came from there when setting up web presence back in the early 2000s.



A00

Where did you grow up?


B

I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia USA



A00

What was childhood like?


B

Good childhood, but I was raised in a conservative religious environment, which I rebelled against. It instilled in me a love of satan



A00

Growing up in Atlanta, what's the best memory you have from your childhood?



B

I think seeing the fireflies come out on those warm southern summer nights.



A00

Did you paint from a young age?


B

Yes, I was oil painting as early as 7-8 years old, studied painting in the attic of a local painter, she was great. I was doing painting commissions as early as 10 years old and used to spend hours in my room sketching out different worlds on my own. Got really into drawing cartoons as a child.



A00

Maybe that's where the style is coming from. Your background is so interesting considering you have and Ph.D. in biophysics. What inspired you to practice art?


B

The question should instead be what inspired me to study math and science, since art has always been my origin. I moved to NYC at 18 years old to study film but then discovered mathematics through the lens of symbolism and philosophical thought (which I was into heavily at the time). I fell in love with mathematics and that led to physics. I kept doing art here and there but spent a ton of time studying math and physics.



A00

Can you tell us what you mean by symbolism and philosophical thoughts? I know this is gonna be impossible to explain in few sentences. But roughly, what do you mean?


B

By philosophical thought, I mean trying to understand the logic behind everything or the origin behind everything. I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to create a concept of god for myself or understand the origin of things based on building up some kind of made-up logic. This was likely due to me breaking out of a religious regimented-thought upbringing. The symbolism loosely ties in with that and would be more related to occult-type stuff, creating symbols that represented various states or were imbued with some power – mystical thinking type stuff I engaged in a lot as a youngster. Both of those came together in a real way through the study of mathematics, which is legit and awesome.



A00

This must have influenced you massively in terms of how you think and execute tasks. So, now based in Portland Oregon, What's your studio like?


B

I really built out my painting studio at the beginning of the pandemic in my garage at home. I’ve been expanding it to get more and more wall space because I typically work on 5-7 paintings at the same time due to my technique (lots of layers built up). I try to keep my studio organized but it always ends up becoming extremely messy. I’ll typically have lots of canvas scraps all over the place with little paint experiments on them to try out and discover new painting techniques.



A00

You also have a large archive of music from 1993-2017. Do you listen to music when you work?


B

Yes, typically it’s techno or hip hop, something high energy.



A00

Before starting your day, do you have any daily routines or rituals you go through?


B

I’ve got a young daughter so she wakes me up early and chats with me, then I try to do a little drawing before I start doing other stuff. I draw a ton all the time throughout the day whenever I can.



A00

I remember you mentioning that your daughter loves monsters and creatures.


B

I get a lot of my inspiration from my daughter’s creativity, she’s almost 5 years old and also really into art.



A00

That's so sweet. Kids tend to have wild imaginations. Perhaps something we lose over time. Being an artist for some time now, what sort of role do would you say artists have in society?


B

Inspire others to think about, look at, and experience their reality differently.



A00

The conversation-making aspect of art is probably one of the most important aspects of art. Living through such a diverse, and somewhat strange era, are there any social or cultural phenomena that you find especially inspiring? or fascinated by?


B

Always been fascinated by celebrity and pop culture – it's such a strange phenomenon. I also love graffiti art.


A00

Let's talk about your work. Since 2018, monsters, monsters, and more monsters. Your works are full of interesting-looking creatures. What's the story behind this?


B

My art has changed a lot throughout my life, started out when I was very young doing realistic stuff then got into more abstract and alternative art-making like video, conceptual, music writing, etc. After I finished the PhD. in 2008 I got back into doing more realistic surrealist style art like the presidential ham (series of US presidents holding hams - http://presidentialham.com/), celebrity still life (https://bijijoo.com/celebritystilllife), etc. but that practice turned out not to be sustainable for me and I took some time off from painting and rebuilt an old house and became a father. I started drawing these little monsters for my daughter ‘cause she loved them and that led to a much more free-form true-to-myself style that I’ve been developing.



A00

Your work, though may look organic, has this wonderful blend of technology into it. The use of technology in art has become somewhat popular and to some extent normal nowadays. What do you think might happen in the future? What sort of art/creative evolution do you think we can expect?


B

I think there will always be space for physical art even though the way many of us experience most art is virtual, which is interesting. I think there will be more overlap in virtual/digital and physical art in the way is both bought, sold, and evolves (like NFTs) and experienced (like digital assets in virtual or mixed reality)



A00

Your background, in programing for example, and your technical skill in creating digital artworks makes us believe that you're more than capable of exploring deeper into the digital world. Is this something you're interested in? Or is there something so wonderful about working in the physical world?


B

Yeah, I have a good amount of experience working with digital art creation. I have a day job working at Nike with teams that do that kind of work, computational design (I work on the Intellectual property side of all that). I’ve gone through periods where I’ve put a lot of focus on building out digital art-making techniques but I always come back to the physical process as something I prefer. It’s like running a wet chemistry lab in my studio - so much to discover using physical media and how they react to provide new visual experiences. My digital art ties into all that and is essentially like a sketchbook to develop ideas with the goal (most of the time) to render something physically.



A00

If you were to try out another medium or form of art (like sculptures, installation, or even performance) what would you like to try out?


B

Well, I’ve tried out and explored many different forms of art (animation, digital, video, music, writing, etc) but never really done much sculpture and that’s something that would be interesting. Got a few collaborations in the future that will touch on that – collab with VINS (https://www.vinsarts.com/) in Taiwan at end of the year and duo show with ceramicist Calvin Wong at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in LA in the fall.



A00

That's definitely something to look forward to. I'm sure there are moments where you feel stuck in the studio. When you are working through problems in your work, who do you talk to?


B

I don’t really talk to anyone about stuff like that. If I feel stuck I just take a little break or work on other aspects of creating stuff different than what I’m stuck on. I’ve gotten used to the recurring self-doubt of being an artist and just keep working through it and not overthinking or overplanning the work- just doing it drives things forward even if it’s a fail.



A00

The way you think you see the world, experience the world...do you think it's different from non-artists?


B

Yes, I think there are all sorts of ways folks experience and perceive the world and artists tend to look at things differently than engineers, for example.



A00

Art can be so many things. Documentation, reflection, the materialization of fantasies, communication, etc. What does your work intend to do?


B

My main focus is visual innovation and idea generation- like trying to create some magical substance that mystifies, enchants, and inspires people – that’s my hope anyway.



A00

Visual Innovation is an interesting topic. You've obviously tested, and still testing lots of ways to manipulate physical medium, along with digital means, to form something interesting. When you say innovation in visuals in the context of physical art, what do you mean? Can you tell us a bit more?


B

By visual innovation, in the context of visual art, I mean discovering new ways to combine materials and layers of materials to provide new visual effects when viewed in person. This can involve applying paint in new ways, combining different paint layers together in different ways, and mixing media to achieve visual effects. This ties to a lot of the ongoing experimentation I have going on in my studio to discover new ways to create visual effects that I can incorporate into paintings.



A00

Your process is packed with experimentations, testing, trials, etc. Almost like an innovative lab. Are there any artists you look up to? Inspired by?


B

Yes, I think of my studio like a laboratory 😊. There are so many artists I admire and am inspired by and I find my taste changes over time. One of my current favorite painters is Louis Bonnet. I love her fleshy forms situated in minimalist environments rendered beautifully in rich oil paint. I also admire still life painter Eric Wert, who lives nearby me in Portland, Oregon. He is an expert at rendering details in oil paint using glazing techniques and I’ve been fortunate to study painting with him. I am greatly inspired by the surrealist automatism process, e.g., Max Ernst and his paintings built up over frottage, grattage, and decalcomania techniques. One of my favorite paintings is Andrea del Castagno’s Last Supper fresco that has an amazing background painted with giant slabs of minerals that look like galaxies.



A00

Can you tell us why visual innovation is important, or relevant to the modern world? Especially in the context of physical, material, tangible, art-making.


B

As many people’s experience of the world becomes more and more virtual I think that there is value in staying connected to the physical. It’s like sport, our bodies need exercise - we are all physical creatures and need to balance physical with virtual and digital experiences. Many of us are connected virtually almost constantly via our phones or computers and other devices, that will likely continue to accelerate, but I think there will always be a need to nourish our physical selves through physical experiences and media: playing, hugging, touching, seeing and breathing the world. In other words, I think physical art fits in with that as something that can only be really experienced physically and provides something when viewed physically that you can’t get from it when viewing virtually.



A00

You also have your daughter as an infinite source of inspiration. A child's imagination is wild without a limit. Can you tell us what you learned from your daughter?


B

Actually, I think the biggest thing I learned from having a kid is time management. For some reason, I feel more productive now that I have a kid versus when I did not. I often wonder what I used to do with all my free time. Having limited time forces me to focus and get shit done when I can. On the art front, my daughter is really into drawing and is an excellent drawer, she doesn’t worry about or overthink what she wants to produce, she just draws freely for the joy of drawing and the results are beautiful. That is a mindset I strive for when creating.



A00

It's fun to think that you and I...and everyone in this world was once a kid. All probably with an unexplainable wild imagination. Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." What do you think?


B

Yes, I think about that a lot. I think it helps to have structured art training but then to learn to go back to that freedom of opening up outside of learned structure can lead to wonderful creative ideas and techniques.



A00

There was a time where there was no iPad and smartphone to play with. No internet and no Instagram. Do you think that was a better time for the kids?


B

No, I just think it’s different. I didn’t have any of that when I was growing up but my daughter does. She draws on my iPad now sometimes, whereas I always used to draw on paper. I think it’s ok to accept technology as long as you learn how to use it responsibly.



A00

Some artworks are all about the context, with a heavy emphasis on the storytelling element. You seem to put more emphasis on the experience of viewing a work. Perhaps emotionally? or empirically? Would you say that your work is open to interpretation? and maybe the "meanings" are not really the focus or the intended aim?


B

For sure, but I'd say all art is open to interpretation regardless of the artist’s intent. I’ve been setting up my work to originate from some initial chaotic process (like random painting splatters) to find the initial form and then guide that. I don’t usually set out to make a particular thing but it instead becomes a bit of self-discovery for me and hopefully for viewers of it too.



A00

What's really interesting is that you have such a solid academic background along with technical skills that seem far away from the world of art. In 10 years, 20 years, what do you see yourself doing?


B

Recently I’ve really been focusing on trying to create a sustainable art practice for myself - building creation processes I enjoy and that have a lot of growth potential built into them as well as building a nearly limitless idea generation process to fall back on. So my hope is to focus more and more on my art practice and continue doing that.



A00

Besides art, do you have any secret hobbies? or something you're really into?


B

I’m really into cute fuzzy animals – I think my favorite is the hyrax.



A00

One more thing, tell us a secret!


B

Umm, no.
Some images are provided by the artist, some are taken from the artist’s instagram (with permission)
 
 Produced by Hiromi Saito. Copyright © ARCHIVE 00 All Rights Reserved 2021.