Masa Iida was born in Kawasaki, Japan in November 1967.
His family moved to Ebina at the age of 3 where he grew up until he studied abroad to New York City in 1990 at the age of 22.
His father was born and grew up in Yokohama just half-hour from Ebina by train.
He loved Yokohama and has strong Yokohama characteristics.
Masa frequently visited Yokohama and absorbed Yokohama culture calling himself Yokoham-being ( a word made-up by Masa, which means someone who loves Yokohama )
He stated his father's influence on him was crucial and Yokohama culture is the one which greatly influenced on his sensitivity and aesthetics.
He was really into music and art since the early age.
Masa asked his parents to buy records of all theme songs of TV Anime series whenever new releases came out.
He memorised all of them and sang them every day. He also loved drawing and created them every day. He especially loved a rainy day to draw.
He lived in NYC for 4 years.
During his stay as a college student, he joined a couple of bands playing bass and recorded his songs for the first time on 4 track tape in a studio.
In 1993 he left NYC and moved back to Japan. This time he lived in Yokohama with his parents.
In 1996 Masa moved to London to pursue his music career.
He formed a music duo called O-ARC with a guitarist, born and bred Londoner Neil Mason.
They create ambient song Zen Pop which combined Japanese and English sensitivity.
In 2015 he started creating paintings as he wanted to add a new dimension to O-ARC music.
He stated both music and painting are equally important as the medium to express himself because inspirations are coming from the same source.
Becoming an artist is a natural path for him.
When he became a teenager he just wanted to simply execute abstract images in his head by recreating it in a different form.
First, he chose music to do so. He started writing songs at the age of 15.
During his teenage period, he was often mentally depressed and struggled to know who he was.
He used abstract images coming through his mental pain as a driving force to write songs.
The first musician Masa was strongly influenced by was The Beatles but he stated Lou Reed was his mentor.
He found the uniqueness of Lou's music was mixing all the elements of different types of music (blues, rockin roll, pop, jazz, punk, grunge, hip pop, ambient, experimental etc ) and poetry in just one song.
Furthermore, his song always has stimulation and the beauty of conceptional art.
He is certain that Lou Reed is the only musician who can create these unusually distinctive songs and his music needs to be performed in an art gallery as he is a true artist.
Masa was also strongly influenced by an architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright was an avid Japanese art collector and combined and harmonised elements of both Western aesthetic and Eastern aesthetic with a fine balance in his architecture.
His description of his enormous admiration towards his work when he saw the Wright's designed study recreated in The Metropolitan Museum of Art during his stay in NYC is as follows.
"I was gobsmacked by the harmonised beauty.
The balance between Western elements and Eastern elements was so refined.
I lost the words. I mean I literally couldn't say anything.
Don't get me wrong.. all the superb beauty won't be expressed in words as true beauty is beyond the words can express.
I agree his work is one of them.
But what I want to say is that I don't know which language should be used in this particular space English or Japanese.
The truth is none of them. You have to invent a new language which is maybe ENGLSHNESE or JAPANGLISH to have a conversation in this particular room."
Another influencer is Mark Rothko.
He believes Rothko's painting is meditation itself.
He discovered this when he visited Rothko's room in Tate Britten in London.
While he was looking into one of Rothko's paintings he was suddenly captured by the temptation of diving into his painting.
He wanted to physically dive into it as the perspective of space in the painting was so deep and eerie and this was truly materialised.
What he saw was space itself. Actual physical space on the 2-dimensional canvas.
It was an enormous vast deep space with spirituality.
It was Zen.
Masa's main medium is watercolour and he uses paper.
Alternative mediums are gouache, acrylic and Japanese ganryo.
In terms of colour, he doesn't use black often as it is made from the elements of all the colours.
He would like rather use individual colours to see how they affect other colours and how relationships among colours appeal to the final product.
Masa pays strong respect to individual colours. How he creates is very similar to how Japanese calligrapher does. He put all his energy and focus on each brush movement and create in one go.
One of his goals of creation is going beyond dualism.
He is a strong believer the truth lies beyond duality. Not love and hate nor good and bad. Something beyond them.
Duality in painting is adding and subtracting.
Adding comes from putting brush marks on paper and subtracting comes from space around them where no brush marks exist.
(Re: oil or acrylic painting: subtracting excess paint from canvas is not categorising as subtracting as it is adjusting the amount of paint. It means pain is still added.)
He wants to create a superb balance between brush marks area and space where no brush marks exist. He believes both elements are equally important as brush marks won't exist without space and space is not recognisable without brush marks.
Once this materialised, the painting will be visible but at the same time invisible.
The painting you can see and you can't see at the same time.
It is like you can't hear anything if you hear two sounds with opposite sound waves at the same time because each sound wave cancels each other.
There are sounds but you can't hear them.
This applies to his painting. A painting which you can't see but stays vividly in your mind.
Masa's father's passing made this clear to him.
He visited his father's care home when his father was at the late stage of his life. He can see his father and felt his existence.
However, he felt that his father's existence was still outside of Masa's mind as his father was still alive and was just in front of him.
Once his father passed away, he can't physically meet up with his father anymore but felt strongly his father's existence in his mind like he and his father were almost one single person.
Masa wants to create a painting to exist in someone's mind vividly.
A painting expressed the ultimate joy of life.
Another goal is creating superb harmony between eastern aesthetics and western aesthetics.
Masa believes a crucial difference between the two is how to acquire beauty.
The western aesthetic is a beauty of addition ( add more to make something new) and the eastern aesthetic is a beauty of subtraction ( subtract more to discover the core).
He realised and felt this difference as a result of living in western society for a long time and wants to create a superb balanced harmony between the two contrasted beauty.
He stated this goal has strongly influenced by Yokohama culture where two cultures co-exist.
Masa did his first exhibition at a little coffee shop The Coffee Jar in Camden Town in London.
Since then Halfadozen Gallery where his duo O-ARC held the live shows, Hampstead Summer Festival, housing development project Streatham Villa Project, Gallery Toukou in Tokyo, and O-ARC Charity Concert organised by Gallery Toukou.
In 2019 Chrom Art ( the organisation helping to promote emerging artists ) was organising his first solo exhibition but it was postponed as Masa needed to stay in Japan for 3 months to support his seriously ill mother who is now recovered.)
However, he managed to hold his first solo exhibition at a wine bar Namiya in Yokohama and also did his acoustic musical live performance during the exhibition period.
In 2019 he created an ensō
It is a circled brush mark created by one brush movement often practised by Buddhist monks.
His ensō is used as part of a logo for the website Elluse which is for craft artists and craft lovers.
He created it on one sunny afternoon in The Regents Park, London and the process was filmed.
In February 2020 he opened his first shop in Hampstead Artisan Market.
The shop is for his original tote bags.
He used a blank tote bag as a canvas and directly created a painting on it using acrylic.
This is his try out of the concept of combining art and functionality which paintings are not only being looked at in a gallery space but also anywhere and anytime people wish as it is a part of their commodity.
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