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Hideki iinuma Interview

HOW to make a wooden Sculpture   :


Hideki Iinuma Matsumoto City Museum of Art




Hideki Iinuma, sculptor, was born in Nagano, Japan in 1975 and has worked in wood since 1997. He studied sculpture at the Aichi Prefect University and at the National Art Plastic in Nantes. At present he lives and works in Tokyo.

Like many artists of his generation, Iinuma came to grips in Japan with the girl-image that had arisen from the Neo-Pop movement. In Europe (since 2000), his work has acquired a new quality. Iinuma now takes his pictorial motives from fashion magazines. He confronts the artificial naturalness of the catwalk with an amazingly lively individuality. His sculptures radiate stillness and calm・characteristics we recognize from the religious sculpture of the European middle ages or the Buddhist sculpture of the Kamakura Period in Japan. Iinuma integrates the different worlds of Eastern Asia and Europe into a whole. A post-modern melancholy speaks through his works, mixed in a unique way with an ostentatious eroticism.

Iinuma's sculptures show impressive craftsmanship. They vary in height from 30 centimetres to 4 meters and are each fashioned from a single piece of wood. The artist has developed a particular style of working with the surface, which renders visible the traces of the (Japanese) tools and the grain of the wood, even beneath the painted layers. Pictorial elements of very different origins flow into the formation of each figure, entering into a relationship of tension with each other. 


visit the artists website


Skulpturen von Hideki Iinuma

Hideki Iinuma wurde 1975 in Nagano, Japan geboren und ausgebildet  an Kunstakademien in Japan und Europa (2002-2005). Er lebt und arbeitet in Tokyo, Japan

Wir betreuen den Künstler seit 2002, dem Beginn seines künstlerischen Schaffens in Europa. Seine Arbeiten wurden seither in der Schweiz, Frankreich, Holland, Ungarn und besonders in Deutschland gezeigt. 2005 erhielt Hideki Iinuma den begehrten Ernst-Barlach-Preis, juriert von Robert Fleck. Ab 2006 baute er seine Karriere in Japan aus.

Trotz Akademieausbildung hatte der Künstler von Anfang an einen eigenen Stil in Ausdruck und in der Oberflächenbehandlung des Holzes. Er stellt ausschließlich Frauen von heute dar, modisch gekeidet, geschmikt und sorgfältigst bemalt. Die Blicke der Dargestellten sind omnipräsent.

Oft wird er von Darstellungen in Modemagazinen inspiriert. Miit künstlerischen Auge und grossem handwerklichen Können entwickelt er aus einem Stück Holz einer scheinbar fast lebenden, ausdrucksvollen Skulptur einer Frau macht. Er stellt sie in einer ganz speziellen, sehr agilen Weise dar, die sie unverwechselbar macht.

Um mehr über den Künstler zu erfahren und seine momentanen Aktivitäten zu verfolgen, empfehlen wir den Besuch seiner Website und der Pressestimmen weiter unten auf dieser Seite.



In conversation with Hideki Iinuma

Hideki Iinuma is an artist, fine wood artist, to be exact. He carves female figures, often with a hint of sexuality, from Camphor wood. While doing so, Iinuma (in combination with modern practices) uses the old ichiboku-zukuri technique which was common in Japan until the 10th century.


Iinuma’s main inspiration comes from a female body and femininity. He loves to tackle the idea of how women are perceived in society and wants to express his idea of beauty throughout his work. He often uses models as a primary form of inspiration. He likes to re-position and release them from their original context. Iinuma takes the imagery directly out of the magazines and with a hint of superficiality, craftsmanship, consumerism and his idea of beauty, he releases them (in wooden form) in the world he creates for them.

Mr. Iinuma, how did the imagery you are known for come about?

The imagery of my work comes from fashion magazines, snapshots, Instagram, and so on.

Do you remember your first piece of work?

In 1999, I made a small sculpture from a roadside tree that was broken down by the storm.

Do you work in series or all your work could be considered as a continuation process of how it all started?

I can’t work in series. I carve directly from my emotions.

Your primary ‘tool’ is wood. Do you ever explore outside of it or you prefer to stick with things that you know?

I did all the experimentation and tried different materials, but when I work with wood, I feel the happiest.

Does workspace have an impact on the imagery you create? For example, if you would work outside in nature, would that impact you?

I work in an atelier that I have inside the house I live in. Daily life goes on there that does not affect me at all. But there was one time I did some work while being on a mountain, surrounded by glorious nature, and that has indeed affected my practice at the time.

What are you most interested in when it comes to your practice?

I am more interested in documenting how the media world discovers and creates new beauty, rather than the women in front of me.

You come from a country where nudity is mostly censored, but a lot of your work involves nudity. That said, has your work ever been censored?

No, never. The only thing that is self-censored is that I do not show nudity works in public museums.

When dealing with nudity, when does an art piece become erotic? Is it the perception, the visual, the connotation?

I think that the art piece itself can not be erotic, beholders perceive it as erotic.

What kind of culture are you currently interested in? Does it often fall outside an art context?

At the moment I am into Kalevala (The Finnish national epic by Elias Lönnrot). Then also saga’s from Iceland and Heroine of Opera.

Folklore, interesting. Kalevala falls into Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, two studies that examine origin. What about your origin? Where does the origin of your expression come from?

I think that the origin of my expression is in Paul Gauguin. Gauguin’s way of thinking was also taken over by Dresden’s artist group Brücke, and I am very influenced by the four of them.

To step away from work, what is the last text message you send? 

The answer is in my works.

Last meal?


Last dream?

Exhibition at the large museum.

Last time you cried?

When a car (Alfa Romeo 75) died in Switzerland, ten years ago.

Your last vacation?

From March 22nd – 26th.

Last song you played?

Happy Birthday.

Text: Katja Horvat

Photo: Courtesy on the artist







press release taken from the artists website :



HIDEKI IINUMA 6th Sense 2014 April

SNOW Contemporary is pleased to exhibit Hideki IINUMA solo show “6th Sense” from June 6th through the 22nd. Hideki IINUMA was born in 1975, and after graduating Aichi Prefecture University of FineArts graduate school, he entered Institut national d'histoire de l'art in France. Taking advantage of its European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University program (ERASMUS), he studied abroad also in Copenhagen (Denmark), Milan (Italy) and Karlsruhe (Germany), and built up his artist career in Europe. After returning back to Japan, recently his artworks have been exhibited not only in art spaces like galleries but also in various spaces such as local and international art fairs, outdoor monuments in Rokko Mountain, show-‐indow installations in Tokyo and others. His works have been highly acclaimed for vividly overturning the general image of woodcarving and have been attracting a large number of viewers in each occasion. 
The models of Hideki IINUMA’s works are always women of today. Somewhat alike landscapes or snap photos, the artworks capturing the momentary expressions and fashion of women living in urban cities never exchanges its eye-‐ights with its viewer thus maintains a certain distance. The artworks though do not only mirror the atmosphere of the current society, but also is a positive applause to the women living today, whereas Iinuma himself expresses as “women today uniquely combine strength and flexible ductility, which we cannot find in men.” 

This exhibition entitled “6th Sense” will be consisted of around 20 new works in installation by the artist. As typified by the Buddhism sculptor Enkuu772 from the Edo period, woodcarvings in Japan has been representing expressions approaching our sixth sense -‐by recreating a Buddhist god from a tree where god was believed to be. Such approach must have rooted down deep to our everyday lives, weaving in our veneration and praying towards an existence of supernatural. What then would woodcarving mean, or furthermore, what would contemporary art mean now where supernatural existence is less considered Iinuma pursues in his solo exhibition what supernatural existence would mean now in the present time of ours through the women living in the society. It would be a great pleasure if Iinuma’s world of expression in his solo exhibition “6th Sense” would become an opportunity to invoke your unconsciousness. 

HIDEKI IINUMA SHIFT website interview 

Most of people named “Hideki Iinuma” as being asked about a noteworthy artist at an art fair “TOKYO FRONTLINE” this February. That was his first show in Japan after he had studied and worked in Europe. Walking lady figures before a vivid pink background leave a striking impression on viewers. Photos of these models from the street are displayed on the side. Is this a part of voyeur? Anyway, these sculptures are surely completed in a formative prospect inconsistent with their light plastic impression at glance. Who is an artist that brings all these up? With a rising style as well as one and only presence, he is a quite mysterious artist. We approach his true nature while asking his heart to his work and stories behind them in this interview.

When did you start making a female wooden sculpture in the current style?

I went to study for a year in Paris while being absent from graduate school at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in 2000. After graduate school, I went to University of Nantes in Brittany to study. What I learned there was that any work that was created in accordance with the rule of western arts could be interpreted correctly without taking the trouble to add any explanations. Since there were no departments, I had opportunities to learn performance, movie, photography, and computer graphic. Each artist studies the western art history and he is always aware of ranking his work in it as well as an artist who has influence on him. It was when I started working in my current style as I met a new sense of value.

You start making a sculpture only with your picture without making a rough sketch, however, how do you collect material for it?

In a sniper series “TOKYO FRONTLINE”, I shot women walking down in the street in Japan. A reason why I use pictures particularly is that flesh and blood does not help me to stir my imagination and rather to lose my strength. Or I can say that I easily become too conscious to work. Therefore I have never chose somebody close to me as my model nor had a model stand nearby like one in an art class. My model that I selected was nothing to do with me in my real life but who gave me some positive inspiration at sight.

You featured a photo from fashion magazine at your recent solo exhibit “A Beautiful Women” at “XYZ collective” and “SLANT” (Kanazawa).

A theme for the show “A Beautiful Woman” is a fashion and a beautiful woman. Motives are selected from fashion magazines. I chose photos that symbolized a modern female among them. Since a pose and a garment have always symbolized a robust body and authority like a Greek sculpture or Unkei and Kaikei, I express my imaginary beautiful female in this way.

Do you feel deeply attached to the fashion?

In an ever changing fashion trend, I would like to take a notice of things that becomes outdated and thrown away, which represent human desires and social metabolism. Even my motif comes from a fashion magazine, I didn’t know anything about an actual site in fashion. So I went to a fashion design school in Milan, 2003.

I leaned to design shoes and T-shirts’s collar at school and other students put non-fashion elements like architecture into their designs as motif. It was a very fresh idea for me to see designing with eroding other medias. I put an experience that I got while working close to Milan fashion shows to good use of my current expression. And I am always attracted to the latest fashion scene.

Through your colorful pop touches, your works might suggest Japanese pop culture in abroad. Are you influenced by Japanese anime or manga cultures?

Certainly, there were that kind of responses in France. But I don’t think I am. There was an anti-pop oriented trend around while I studied in Europe. I tend to have people understand my works in a different deepen direction rather than manga or anime.

How did you challenge your solo show, “A Beautiful Woman” after your Japan debut exhibition in Japan, at “TOKYO FRONTLINE”?

I named my show “Sniper Series” at TOKYO FRONTLINE because of its possibility to be able to incorporate with an event-like-topic in the nature of an art fair. It is quite thrilling to take a picture without being recognized by a subject. It is a brush with the law to take a sneak shot with a tiny camera. So I took a picture respectably with my single-lens reflex camera. I sculpted both eyes that woman who dolls up and has a desire to be seen as well as one of mine who wants to see her in the street. I guess I found the way out by having an ordinary woman whom I “shot” in the street walk on catwalk in my show.

In the exhibit “A Beautiful Woman”, I chose to express a beautiful female by making a self-portrait of lady in myself. By twisting myself of manly side that attract females and another myself who envies a beauty of females, I was able to succeed to draw a modern society whose aspects include womanly roles and manly roles as well as masculized females and feminized males.

I select some models from manly macho point of view, on the other hand in stark contrast to it, others are selected from lady first in praise of them sort of view. During a talk with Mr. Satoru Aoyama (contemporary artist), he asked me if I had a transvestism. But I am not trying to become a woman just trying to materialize consciousness of each gender by seeking the feminine gender.

“A consumption society” is one of your motives. Is it your key motif?

To begin with, a magazine is a symbol of our consumption society, which is thrown away after read over. Especially fashion magazines. They are printed and discarded in for craze. I am rather attracted to their transient lives than showy fashion itself. At the same time, a model goes through a same life span. I interpret it to be a “Beauty” that female embodies.
However, I start feeling that it might be an outdated idea to have a consumption society as my motif after TOKYO FRONTLINE in February. A revolution that had stemmed from Facebook in Egypt made me realized that “consumption” is not a major factor in the oncoming new era just before the exhibition. Then the earthquake disaster overturned the values of our society. The words sound a little apathetic by now.

Did 3.11 leave a large impact on your production?

I was filled with a stab of guilt running away from Tokyo after moved to my relative’s house in Osaka with my family on March 15th. I was thinking about Taro Okamoto and Tsuguharu Fujita who came back from Paris to Tokyo in World War Ⅱ as well as Kiyoshi Hasegawa and Pablo Picasso who stayed in Paris. Kiyoshi Hasegawa kept printing while being sent to a concentration camp and I assume that Pablo Picasso had a hunch that it was a real art to stay there and to keep painting while never bowing before authority. This thought helped me to make a fresh resolution to go back to Tokyo and keep on working.

There was an indication of the nationwide risk that could be caused by a news report which had been hiding some truth concerning serious nuclear issues in Fukushima. It is a time for me to think how an artist stands against the authority in order to obtain individual freedom of expression. Since 3.11, I feel being asked for my strength to keep producing just like I did before, at the same time, I also feel a sense of guilt on what I haven’t changed.

How did you finally end up for making your work in Japan after going through your activities in Europe?

I have been wandering studio to studio in several countries for 5 years and decided to come back to Japan in order to lay the foundation for my life including my home and my studio. It takes quite long time to reach deep understandings and it is not that easy to have a conversation with a full understanding of their mentalities and cultures while using my imagination, though, there are many new things that can inspire you in abroad. Once I met Simon Starling (contemporary artist) at a workshop of design college in Denmark. He told me “You don’t have your original language”. I thought I could speak both English and French but then I realized that I was able to appreciate things and deepen my thought by thinking in Japanese. It is the best for me to select Japanese to convey my concept directly, I guess. By translating my concept throughly in Japanese, I would like to confront the world.

Tell us your favorite artist or an artist who influenced you.

A German artist, Georg Baselitz, is the one who always gives me something on my mind among all various art works in Europe. He makes me wonder how he can reach the perfect beauty with those violent touches. The more researching about him, I learned more that there is a “anti-skill” kind of art without clean finish in art history. For example, talking about Gauguin and Gogh. If you assume Gogh was a mentally disordered person - of course I do not think he was that crazy - you think a person who interpret him was Gauguin and what he painted influenced Les Nabis then Die Brucke who painted people in the abstract manner. That was followed by an avant-garde movement, COBRA, in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels. And one school applied violent brushworks that implied the recovery of humanity. Jean Dubuffet followed next. I think he painted interrupting an unconsciousness of human beings and childishness into his works. Bazelitz is in this tide. He is able to accomplish with his violent touch because he collects pictures by children and mentally disordered people and does just I mentioned before. I would like to carry my roughness as well as clean finish skills like a make-up while being aware of where I belong to and where I intend to belong to in the art history.

Does your theme toward feminine beauty continue from now on? Or is there any new one in your mind?

Yes, it does. For instance, a gene that works between man and woman attracting one and another or an instinct of animals in conception. I have my mind on collaboration with photo, fashion, design, street and pop cultures.

Hideki Iinuma
Born in Nagano pref., 1975. After graduated from Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, entered University of Nantes in Brittany (France) and while participating European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility University Student (ERASMUS) he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, the New Academy of Fine Arts of Milan, and Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. He carried out his works after his graduation while winning the first prize at International Sculpture Symposium (2004 / Germany) and Ernst Barlach prize (2005 / German). Currently, he lives and works in Japan belonging to “SNOW Contemporary”.

Text: Yu Miyakoshi
Translation: Yoshitaka Futakawa


“Beautiful women: Current situation of reversing dominance relationship and figurative sculpture”

Confidently or not, Hideki Iinuma’s sculptural style which can be interpreted as a ghost of academism seems to relate to extinct species in the field of contemporary art. For one thing, he limits his theme to “beautiful women,” which even present pornographic aspects at times, including female figures with bare genitals giving the audience a suggestive glance for example. “Beautiful women” he handles probably carry common or universal “beauty” based on certain kind of statistics; however the criteria is not clearly indicated but insistently entrusted in his own subjectivity. Essentially, the muscular directivity itself could become the target of criticism in terms of its violent nature and political insensitivity in the present age, after criticism to customary academism represented by nude sketches grew in combination with the feminist movement. In spite of this fact, he persistently and intentionally dares to choose “beautiful women” as his theme. This never means to be provocative but can be expressed as his necessity. If stereotypical dominance relationship exists between an artist and a subject (woman) in his sculpture, the dominating side is rather the subject. This can be simply because the artist absolutely submits to the “beauty” of a woman, but it is his persistence to amateurism that visually realizes the relationship. The surface of woodcarving where primitiveness remains intentionally emphasizes yearning similar to fear instead of accomplishing his desire for beautiful women. In his recent “Sniper X Sniper” series, he aims to take photographs for an “esquisse” of his sculpture using a telephoto lens without obtaining permission from the object, like a young man in the present age who fears communication. These carefully photographed women are deprived of details and made into artwork as anonymous idols. We eventually observe them as female figures in the modern age and at the same time cannot help visualizing today’s naive male figures as their authors. This must be the present situation of figurative sculpture “confiently” presented by Iinuma. It might be a good time for “female figures” and “nude female figures” to unload the burden of the “epitome of men’s dominance over women” they carried for nearly a century.

Text Satoru Aoyama (Artist)

Press Release Viveek Sharma, Hideki IinumaFeaturing S(outh) E(ast) A(sia) ? g27 Opening reception: Thursday, 18 March 2010, 6 pm

On view: 19 March - 23 April 2010

Viveek Sharma's representation of women and biographical mode of working offers many cross-references with the sculptures of the Japanese artist Hideki Iinuma. With his figures sculpted from wood, Iinuma finds himself in a borderland between Western and Eastern culture marked both by contrasts and similarities. As with Viveek Sharma also his sojourn in Europe left a lasting impression. He trained as a sculptor at the Aichi Prefecture University of Fine-Arts, Aichi, Japan, and the Ecole Regionale des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France. In his sculptures that bear evidence of an impressive craftsmanship, Iinuma draws on the old ichiboku-zukuri technique common in Japan until the 10th century by which the work is crafted from a block of wood, and further develops it. He combines this technique with a special surface treatment that leaves the traces from working on the wood and the grain still visible under a coat of paint.

Iinuma who counts among the young generation of Japanese artists, critically analyses the changes of his time by way of his sculptures. The girl-image evolved from Neo-Pop forms his main subject matter as does the changing perception of women in Japanese society. His figures carved from Camphor wood, often exuding a hint of ostentatious sexuality, mostly represent models from newspapers and magazines. For women in Japan as for those in Europe these young women are more and more becoming enthusiastically emulated fashion icons. Hideki Iinuma clearly holds up a mirror to them and their environment.


Press release Fabian and Claude Walter 2006 09

With his figures worked in wood, the Japanese artist Hideki Iinuma moves in a borderland between western and eastern culture, characterised by contrasts as well as connections. Both in Europe and Japan there is a long tradition of sculpting figures in wood. Closely linked to the spread of Buddhist teaching, there was a first blossoming

of wooden sculpture in Japan as early as the 7th century. Until the 10th century, most work was done using the ichiboku-zukuri technique in which the work is carved out of a single block of wood. This age-old method of working in wood has been deliberately adopted and developed by Iinuma. He combines it with a kind of surface treatment which leaves traces of the tool marks and the grain of the wood visible even under the paint. 

The peculiar stillness and peace that emanate from Iinuma sculptures are reminiscent of Japanese wood sculptures of the Kamaruka period (1192-1333), as is the use of glass eyes which sometimes occur in Iinuma most recent works. We find a similarity in the work of Katsura Funakoshi (b. 1951) too, a contemporary Japanese sculptor who likewise confines himself to representing human figures, but gives them a smoother surface treatment and alienates them by adding surreal elements. Another leading representative of present-day Japanese wood sculpture is Yoshihiro Suda (b. 1969), who makes hyper-realistic, fragile wood sculptures of plants and installs them in space. A certain propensity towards scene-setting can also be observed in Hideki Iinuma, who photographs his figures in carefully chosen surroundings such as churches or townscapes. 

In Europe the technique of figural wood carving first flourished in mediaeval church sculpture. Subsequently it was increasingly replaced by other materials, or confined to small-scale and popular art, until it was revived in the Expressionist movement of the 20th century by artists like Barlach or Kirchner. The most prominent representative of contemporary figural wood sculpture is the German artist Stephan Balkenhol (b. 1957). In principle Iinuma sculptures have something in common with Balkenhol: the secular, contemporary subject matter, the dominance of the plinth, their genesis in a block, the visibility of the tool marks. And yet the differences are greater: while Balkenhol figures have a raw, coarse surface structure, Iinuma sculptures are worked in a finer, more homogeneous way. The emotional emptiness and stereotypical impersonality of expression that distinguish Balkenhol works make way in Iinuma to more individual characterisation. 

Admittedly at first glance the women in the Balenciaga series, inspired by fashion magazines and catwalks, and the provocative figures in the Nudes on Chairs series appear impassive, showing no impulses of feeling. But if you look at them directly, behind the facade of their made-up faces personalities marked by individual life stories can be discerned. The posing models and the exposed nudes seem to be taking pains over their attitude and expressionlessness, endeavouring to construct a protective facade. In a far less explicit way but with similar motives to the Swiss artist Daniele Buetti (b. 1956), who has put tattoos of brand names on photographs of supermodels, Hideki Iinuma unmasks the contemporary ideal of beauty as a depersonalised surface for projecting exaggerated desires and excessive consumerism. By releasing the female figures from their context characterised by fast living and superficiality, reproducing them in wood, a natural, archaic material, and giving a glimpse of their personality, he endows them with new dignity and individuality. 



2008 Global nomads, Galerie Tanya Rumpff, Haarlem, Holland

Hideki Iinuma 'Spotted' 

Painted wooden statues 

The Japanese artist Hideki Iinuma (1975) followed his education in several European cities and in Aichi and Tokyo, where he lives and works nowadays.

Iinuma makes polychrome painted sculptures of light birchen wood. Figures of women of the world, with a skin of wood, where the traces of working are left visible. 

From showily dressed women to provocative nudes with bored or seductive glances. Full of life as if they are picked from the corner of the street, a catwalk or a gallery opening. 

If you blink your eyes they could just as well continue their way. 

The century long tradition of wooden sculptures, in the west as well as the east, is at tension with the photographic precision; the instantaneous (moment) and the inspiration by fashion magazines where consumption is written with capital letters. 

The socle and the statue are formed out of one piece of wood. The mannequins/fashion goddesses are drawn from the material, deliberated like the slaves of Michelangelo. Iinuma works according to the century old Japanes ichiboku-zukuri technique where the work is cut from one piece of wood. 

His figures differ quite a lot in scale; from miniatures to somewhere half the human height. 

Contrary to Stephan Balkenhol, with whom he is sometimes compared, Iinuma's statues are elaborated much more in detail. They are provided with make-up and accessoires . Even the logos of the designerclothes they wear and the folds and the patterns of the fabric are clearly visible. Iinuma's figures are rather individuals than the more archetypal figures that Balkenhol makes. 

The ladies seem to be just as much at ease in Tokyo as in Paris. In the catalogue they are portraited in city-/landscapes with which they seem to merge seamlessly. 

Also literally they form one whole with their 'background', the socle with which they are inseperably connected and emanate/originate/arise from. 


Press release Cornelius Pleser

Hideki Iinuma, sculptor, was born in Nagano, Japan in 1975 and has worked in wood since 1997. He studied sculpture at the Aichi Prefect University and at the National Art Plastic in Nantes. At present he lives and works in Tokyo.

Like many artists of his generation, Iinuma came to grips in Japan with the girl-image that had arisen from the Neo-Pop movement. In Europe (since 2000), his work has acquired a new quality. Iinuma now takes his pictorial motives from fashion magazines. He confronts the artificial naturalness of the catwalk with an amazingly lively individuality. His sculptures radiate stillness and calm・characteristics we recognize from the religious sculpture of the European middle ages or the Buddhist sculpture of the Kamakura Period in Japan. Iinuma integrates the different worlds of Eastern Asia and Europe into a whole. A post-modern melancholy speaks through his works, mixed in a unique way with an ostentatious eroticism.

Iinuma's sculptures show impressive craftsmanship. They vary in height from 30 centimetres to 4 meters and are each fashioned from a single piece of wood. The artist has developed a particular style of working with the surface, which renders visible the traces of the (Japanese) tools and the grain of the wood, even beneath the painted layers. Pictorial elements of very different origins flow into the formation of each figure, entering into a relationship of tension with each other. 


Press release Ernst Barlach Preis 2005 (German text) 

Scheinbar unberuhrt von jeder technischen Innovation schnitzt und sagt Hideki Iinuma seine Figuren in Holz, einem der altesten Werkstoffe plas-tischer Kunst. Er knupft damit an eine Tradition der Holzbildhauerei an, die von den Holzturen fruhchristlicher Kirchen uber das ottonische Gero-kreuz, die Triumphkreuzgruppen und Vesperbilder des Hochmittelalters bis zu den geschnitzten Chorgestuhlen und Flugelaltaren der Spatgotik reicht und in der expressionistischen Holzplastik des fruhen 20. Jahrhunderts, etwa bei Ernst Barlach, eine Wieder-belebung erfahren hat. Doch Hideki Iinuma ist ein Japaner, der sich nicht aus dem Musterbuch europaischer Plastik bedient, sondern sich ihm bewusst widersetzt. Sein Personal - junge Frauen in allen nur denkbaren korperlichen und emotionalen Zustanden - ist radikal entindividualisiert, gibt nichts von sich preis, erzahlt und reprasentiert nichts. Figuren ohne Bedeutung konnte man sie nennen. Jeder Versuch, von der Gestaltung dieser No-Name-Typen auf eine Gefuhlsregung, auf einen Wesenszug gar zu schliesen, endet in unverbindlichen Assoziationen. Ratselhaft wie die Sphinx verharren Iinumas Frauen in ihrer selbstgewahlten Isolation. 

Wie bei seinem westlichen Pendant, dem deutlich alteren Stephan Balkenhol, gelingt es dem Japaner Hideki Iinuma, das ubermachtige Erbe der skulpturalen Tradition in eine neue, erotische, ganzlich unpratentiose Privatheit der Gesten zu uberfuhren. Jenseits des Kunstzitats evozieren seine zarten Frauengestalten Menschen in geradezu seltsamer Ruhe und Entrucktheit - immer einen Schritt von der Gegenwart entfernt, immer uber oder neben ihr. Die besturzende Glaubwurdigkeit dieser Figuren beruht aber gerade auf ihrer verwirrenden Normalitat.

Dabei ist die formale Ausfuhrung der Arbeiten Iinumas durchaus impressionistisch zu nennen, wie ein mannlicher Tagtraum, durchs sommerliche Blatterdach gefiltert und in tausende von Bildpunkten aufgelost, zartkorperliche, verlockende Weiblichkeit, mit kleinen, gegeneinander versetzten Schnitten ins Bild geholt, sprechen diese weniger uber sich als uber den Kunstler selbst. Denn wenn Iinuma seine Frauenbilder aus dem Holz herausarbeitet, tut er dies nicht gewaltsam. Er fugt ihnen keine Wunden und Verletzungen zu, wie es vielleicht ein Baselitz tun wurde. Iinuma realisiert seine Korper mit starkem Gespur fur sein Material als sanft aus dem Stamm hervorgeholte Bildwerke. Seine mimetische Kunst verweist dabei in ihrer kantigen Oberflache eher auf die inwendigen als auf ausere Beschadigungen der Dargestellten.

Iinumas Auseinandersetzung mit dem Frauenbild ist in hohem Mase eindringlich. Ob als Engel oder Prostituierte, ob als Maria, Girly oder Modepuppe, der Bildhauer zeigt das schone und starke Geschlecht entweder in separaten Perspektiven oder im raumlichen Nebeneinander von Skulptur und Photographie, direkt und nah und doch voneinander unberuhrt.

Skulpturen, aus Holzblocken herausgearbeitet und deren photographische Uberhohung, so haben sie sich im einzigen Saal der Ausstellung zu einer imaginaren Tanzstunde zusammengefunden, jede Skulptur sekundiert von gerahmten Photographien. Steif, ein wenig ungelenk proben sie mit unbewegten Gesichtern und angemessenem Korperabstand Grundstellungen und Wechselschritt. Hinter dem leidenschaftslos ausgeubten gesellschaftlichen Ritual wird aber nur all zu oft abgrundige Beziehungslosigkeit sichtbar: Die Ferne, die gerade in der Nahe liegen kann. Es ist, als ware jede Figur - den Baumen gleich, deren Holz sie entstammen - vor allem in ihrer gemeinschaftlichen Vereinzelung prasent. 


Hambourg news paper 

Fasziniert von Holz und Mode

Wedel: Hideki Iinuma erh?lt den Ernst-Barlach-Preis. Der Bildhauer aus Japan: "Es ist gro?artig, eine deutsche Kunstauszeichnung zu bekommen."

Von Kuno Klein

Wedel - 

Zwei Dinge haben es dem Japaner Hideki Iinuma im Zusammenhang mit seiner Kunst, der Bildhauerei, angetan: Zum einen ist es das Material Holz - und zum anderen die Mode. Beides bringt er in seinen Arbeiten zusammen und sch?tzt den Kontrast, der sich daraus ergibt. "Holz ist alt und langlebig", sagt der 30j?hrige, "Mode ist sehr kurzlebig."

Mit Holz und Farbe schafft er seine Kunstwerke. Die Vorbilder f?r die schlanken, modisch gekleideten Frauenfiguren findet er in Modezeitschriften. Mode fasziniert ihn, weil dort wie in der Bildhauerei der sch?pferische Akt gefragt ist. In neueren Arbeiten erhalten die h?lzernen Models Fl?gel. Die Anregung daf?r hat der Japaner, der auch viel in Europa lebt und arbeitet, bei Kirchenbesuchen in S?ddeutschland von den dortigen Engelfiguren mitgebracht.

Die Arbeiten des Japaners haben Robert Fleck, Leiter der Hamburger Deichtorhallen, so ?berzeugt, da? er ihn als Barlach-Preistr?ger vorgeschlagen hat. Und was bedeutet es f?r Iinuma, den Preis zu erhalten? "Es ist gro?artig, als Japaner einen deutschen Kunstpreis zu bekommen", antwortet er. Und besonders freut er sich ?ber diese mit 5000 Euro dotierte Auszeichnung. "Ich mag Barlachs Skulpturen. Sie sind sehr stark", sagt der K?nstler.

Ein Blick in die Ausstellung mit den Werken Iinumas im Wedeler Ernst Barlach Museum in der M?hlenstra?e 1 - sie sind dort bis zum 11. Dezember, dienstags bis sonnabends von 10 bis 12 Uhr und von 15 bis 18 Uhr sowie sonntags von 10 bis 18 Uhr zu besichtigen - zeigt, da? es sich ausschlie?lich um Frauenfiguren handelt. Die Erkl?rung ist einfach. "Ich liebe Frauen", sagt der Japaner mit einem L?cheln. Und da? diese haupts?chlich europ?ische Gesichtsz?ge haben, liegt einfach daran, da? der Bildhauer viel in Europa gearbeitet hat.

Seine Vorliebe f?r Holz als Material seiner Skulpturen liegt zum einen in seinen kulturellen Wurzeln begr?ndet. In Japan hat Holz in der religi?sen Kunst eine gro?e Bedeutung. Zum anderen ist es f?r ihn ein Symbol f?r die Natur. Schnitzen hei?e, einen Dialog mit der Natur zu f?hren, erkl?rt der Japaner. "Wenn ein Baum gef?llt wird, stirbt das Holz", beschreibt der K?nstler seine T?tigkeit. "Durch meine Arbeit wird es wieder zu Leben erweckt." Und in der Tat wirken die Figuren h?chst lebendig.

Aus welcher Holzart das Werk entsteht, liegt ganz daran, wo sich Iinuma aufh?lt. Er benutzt jeweils die dort verf?gbaren Holzsorten.

Offiziell wird der Ernst-Barlach-Preis am heutigen Sonnabend, 12. November, im Rahmen eines ?ffentlichen Festakts von 15 Uhr an in dem Wedeler Museum ?berreicht. Einleitende Worte sprechen J?rgen Doppelstein, Vorsitzender der Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft, der japanische Generalkonsul Tatsuya Miki und Eberhard Fleske, Vorsitzender des Wedeler Kulturausschusses. Die Laudatio auf den Preistr?ger h?lt der Leiter der Hamburger Deichtorhallen, der den K?nstler ausw?hlen durfte.

erschienen am 12. November 2005 



Q1: How do you describe your creating style? 

A1: My work is a document that testifies about contemporary women through pictures and sculptures. It is the act of embodying the motif of transient fashion, a symbol of the consumption society, into those primitive three-dimensional objects that are sculptures. I pursue the potentiality of sculpture as pure art because sculpture is an act of resistance to the information-oriented society ruled by the media; and I depict the huge conflict between the necessity for the women to play the role of femininity and the animal instinct. 

Q2: What kind of materials, tools and techniques do you like using for your creation?

A2: Contax Film Camera, 4x5 camera, Stihl chainsaw; the wood I use is Japanese cypress or camphor tree; flat chisels from Kyoto, V-shaped chisels from Switzerland, grinder, Bosch drill.

Q3: How do you get this creative conception? 

A3: By walking on the streets. By reading books. By reading magazines in bookstores. During evenings when I come home after drinking.

Q4: When you create the figure, how do you get the inspiration? And what’s your creative process?

A4: I get my inspiration from the women’s body and what makes the femininity, the bones structure, the beauty and the sensuousness of the bodylines. 

I steal pictures from people walking on the street, or I choose pictures of outfits and models that are appropriate for a sculpture from fashion magazines.

I make an approximate drawing on the log, then I sculpt the wood, I color it and I take picture of it somewhere outside in the city. 

Q5: How long do you complete a sculpture? What’s the most difficult step when you are creating?

A5: Small sculptures take me 1 or 2 weeks. Big size sculptures, one month. The most difficult thing is to get the original idea.

Q6: We know you take pictures first and create sculptures. When you take a picture, how do you decide the person in pictures who is the character that you will transform to the sculpture?

A6: It depends on the moment when I will make a decisive encounter by accident. One day I will see sculptural clothes flowing in a strong breeze, or lit by beautiful daylight.

The one I choose to be the character of my work is the person whose expression in the developed pictures calls my desire for creation.

Q7: Which work is your favorite? Would you share the design conception with us? (image needed)

A7: It is of course the one I am sculpting right now. I create in a studio so that no one can see the work in process. 

I apologize for that, but I cannot show my creation before it is completed.

Q8: What’s your next plan and is there any on-going project now? 

A8: I want to create a sniper series with pictures I took in various cities throughout Asia. It will be a project associating photography, fashion, design, street culture and pop culture. It will embody the action of the DNA and of the animal instinct that attract men and women to each other. 


2011.7.8 FRI ? 7.24 SUN 12:00 ? 20:00

opening reception:7.8 FRI 17:00-20:00 talk show : 7.8 FRI 17:00-18:00 Hideki Iinuma x Satoru Aoyama (artist) venue:XYZ collective (1F 2-30-20 Tsurumaki, Setagaya, Tokyo)■ Hideki Iinuma “Beauties”

From July 8th (Friday) to July 24th (Sunday), SNOW Contemporary is holding the exhibition “Beauties”, Hideki Iinuma’s first solo exhibition in Japan.

Hideki Iinuma, born in 1975, after graduating for the graduate school of the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, entered Ecole Regionale des Beaux-Arts, Nantes (France). Thanks to the European university student exchange program (ERASMUS) provided by the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts, he took part in studying programs which led him to Copenhagen (Denmark), Milan (Italy), and Karlsruhe (Germany). Participating to solo and group exhibitions all over Europe, he developed a long career there as a woodcarving artist.

In February this year, with his participation to “Tokyo Frontline”, the art fair taking place in 3331 Arts Chiyoda, he made a spectacular debut in Japan and, showing a sharp imagination, attracted public attention by turning the exhibition booth into a fashion show runway with a fluorescent pink wall as a background.

All Hideki Iinuma’s pieces have in common is the coarse texture of wood surface he carves. His creations are the result of a mental contemplation of the future form, and do not use any sketch or draft. They are a mix of delicately and roughly carved parts in which one can still distinguish the cracks and the knots of the wood and the traces left from the carving process, so finely balanced that it agitates the viewers’ imagination. The repeating motif of his creations, which consists in snap shots of women featured in the fashion magazines or of ordinary girls from the streets of Tokyo, both of them passionate with fashion and living in the moment, makes us feel the strong embedment of his work in our modern society.

Also, when Hideki Iinuma photographs his works by himself, instead of the white cube, he chooses to shoot them with urban or natural landscapes as a background. Not that he thinks of it as a photographic creation, but he prefers this way because it helps communicating more intelligibly the meaning the wooden sculptures carry. Indeed, each of Hideki Iinuma’s creations captivates the present moment and surprisingly blends into the sceneries of the contemporary society, generating a unique synergetic effect.

For his first solo exhibition in Japan, Hideki Iinuma returns to the source and concentrates on exploring what any artwork should embody: “beauty”. The passion that drives him into creating is the simple desire to give form to his idea of beauty. It is different from the Pygmalion’s quest of an ideal woman, but the artist, who lives in the contemporary “society” where people’s values are increasingly diversifying, uses his creations to convey the concept of beauty as he personally perceives it.

We hope that you will take the opportunity to see “Beauties”, the long-awaited first solo exhibition in Japan of Hideki Iinuma after his long career abroad. 

“The appeal of contemporary art depends on how the “visual game” and the “mental game” are combined together. In an extreme instance, even an interesting visual or a brilliant craftwork will not originate some new value if not relayed by something more. To which extend does the work generate an informative energy and also a conversion (“transmission”) of substance; this could be a criterion for judgment.

The work of Hideki Iinuma marvelously fulfills the condition required for contemporary art to have a present-day relevancy. The images of these girls who have had their picture “stolen” in the streets have “the same look” in common with the so familiar cell phone pictures. And these images are “converted” into the classic (the original) woodcarving. While being a dive into the contemporaneousness, fluid and ephemeral, it also provides this “joy of possession” that goes over time.

Hideki Iinuma, who exemplifies with great talent the charm of this “conversion” that art is, will doubtlessly become one of the major artists of our time and will set up a new frontline.”

Shigeo Goto (Professor/Kyoto University of Art and Design, Director/TOKYO FRONTLINE)

“The surface of woodcarving where primitiveness remains intentionally emphasizes yearning similar to fear instead of accomplishing his desire for beautiful women.”

Satoru Aoyama (artist)

“Hideki Iinuma is a meister who have learnt the traditional Japanese art of woodcarving passed on for centuries. His talent consisting of inspiring his sculptures with life had him invited to the exhibition. He sees women from the fashion magazines or girls swaggering about on the streets as potential models and transforms them into works of art. He skillfully depicts these modern women as they take striking poses and don’t forget to be sexy while being career-oriented.”

“Tages Anzeiger” (March 24, 2011)