In The Studio: Simon Fujiwara, artist


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The Independent Culture

"These are a few of my favourite things," says Simon Fujiwara, showing me around his studio in the colourful Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Having previously worked in his flat, he laughs. "I deliberately recreated home here in the studio. It is so successful that people always ask if this is where I live."

Scattered around is part of his collection, some easily recognisable from his works. A be-tasselled conquistador helmet lies near a bound volume of the life of an obscure saint. Propped up nearby are posters from Fujiwara's schooldays in Cornwall – The Sound of Music and The King and I, productions in which he took leading roles before decamping, aged 16, to Japan with his mother.

Fujiwara has had a prodigious career in a short time, leaving art college (without completing the course) in 2009 before participating in that year's Venice Biennale and winning the following year's prestigious Cartier Prize.

The past year has been frenetic for Fujiwara, with inclusion in the Manchester International Festival, a solo show at Tate St Ives, and an appearance in the prestigious Performa festival in New York.

Fujiwara initially trained as a concert pianist, and is an accomplished cellist as well as a Cambridge-trained architect. He has certainly come a long way from Carbis Bay in Cornwall, where he spent his early years with his English mother, who had trained as a dancer but founded a nursery school to support her family.

His Japanese father, an architect, returned to Japan when Simon was a young child and they had little contact until recently, in the context of making a work for the St Ives show.

Fujiwara's peripatetic history, and his isolation in a community where, as he claims, "the most exciting thing was Woolworths", have turned him into a resilient and independent young man.

An often seamlessly woven mix of biographical details, fact, and fiction, Fujiwara's work constantly provokes one to question the truth of the artist's statements. He admits that the autobiographical "is always at the centre of the work", saying, "I want to write the piece and be in it, to be about my life".

I tell him that I had particularly enjoyed a vitrine work in which rested the remnants of a smashed studio set by Bernard Leach next to an intact and slightly lopsided tea service that he had created in Japan with his father. I was touched at the choice of heart over head in destroying the Leach, and he smiles momentarily before bounding off to show me his writing room. He picks up a sword from the wide desk, playfully brandishing it at me as he gestures around at more of his strange objects.

"I cannot resist a flea-market," he says. "I spend all my money shipping back rubbish. I hate it when one of my works sells and goes away, taking some of my collection with it."