“The calligraphy on the left—written as kai raku en—means ‘strange, bizarre or monstrous paradise’ in Japanese. It’s my original word and sounds like an existing word for pleasure (kai-raku), but it uses a different character that connotes strangeness. It’s also the title for a publication of mine that will be released in 2018.
“I painted on the smaller girl doll, which was given to me as a gift—she’s sitting on dead roses. The most beautiful moment in the life of a flower to me is when it’s dying. So when I get flowers I leave them as they are for more than a week, without changing the water. It stinks a lot, but I like to take pictures of flowers in that moment. The Japanese doll to the right was also a gift. I cut her hair and made her untidy. I transformed the figure to her left, a gift, into an ‘ogre of photography,’ a self-portrait, by putting a camera on it and drawing on glasses. I’ve always enjoyed plastic dolls and dinosaurs. Everyone knows that now, so I get them as gifts a lot and then I paint them myself. I like to work on the dolls, same as the flowers—I find them more interesting that way.
“I’ve known the woman in the Polaroid, on the far left, since she was still an apprentice geisha in Kanazawa. When she became a geisha, she came to Tokyo and I took her picture to celebrate. The color palette is from when I visited the painter Yokonori Tadao’s atelier to take his portrait. I believe that he always uses a paper plate as a palette. I found it very attractive, so I asked to have it. He signed it and gave it to me.
“The paper cutting next to it was done by one of my girlfriends, Komari, around 2005. She made it quite well. I spend more time at home now, and I take pictures of an altar I created in my house, with dolls, flowers and some other small things. I make a new composition every day with the materials around me. I keep a lot of things as souvenirs.”
—As told to Thomas Gebremedhin