I discovered Corey Oda at the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series Montreal event. This international affair has helped many artists get known and has brought some popularity to the visual arts through the well-known gin brand. It is a fun and fascinating event where enthusiasts and artists alike reunite and discuss the various optic arts in the room. They even have an interactive way for people to showcase how the art makes them feel with small circled color coordinated pieces that represent a feeling. During the event, Oda’s artwork had an impact on us, and we wanted to learn more.
A gemstone in its natural state is more like a mysterious rock with various pigments of color, texture, and clarity mixed in with “rocks.” In celebration of his passion for gems, we decided to meet at Daisy Exclusive, a fine jewelry store in Westmount Square. During our meet and greet, we discussed his passion for his primary source of inspiration (the Earth’s hidden treasures) and even got a chance to look at some examples. An almost raw emerald was at the center of our discussion. Of course, Oda prefers stones in their natural state, and you can find out why in the interview below.
This talented artist is humble and surrounds himself well with his wife Kit King, an astonishing artist herself. The two lovebirds have even collaborated on work together!
1. Who are you and what do you do?
“Who am I” is an ongoing process I’m in the current practice of and probably always will be. Constantly re-organizing and re-considering myself in order to answer that question.
Perhaps I took that question too literal haha…
Well, my name is Corey, also known simply as ‘Oda’, and I’m a Japanese American artist, now living and working in the French countryside of eastern Ontario Canada as a full-time artist.
2. How did you become the visual artist you are today?
I guess to answer that I need to start from the beginning. I’ve been an artist my whole life. From a young child, I was always holding a pencil or tool to create with. My mother was a seamstress and father was a master builder, so I was influenced to create in more ways than one. I learned to sew and cross-stitch, but also to wood and metal work. So from a young age, I’ve had the passion to create. As I aged, I remained a creative but never saw “art” as a viable profession to make a living from. Until I found tattooing at the age of 22. I tattooed for about 7-8 years, thinking I would do it until the day my hands failed to work, until I met my now wife Kit, who introduced me to painting. She taught me to oil paint, and I fell in love. Since then I’ve been focusing on a career as a full-time fine artist, not only with a practice in oil painting but recently broadening my horizons to include sculpture and photography as well.
3. Can you describe why you are so inspired by gemstones in their raw form?
Rocks, minerals, and gems have been an interest of mine since I was very young. I had quite the collection of everything from random rocks I found on the ground that I felt were interesting, to fossils and semi-rare gemstones. I’m also reluctant to tell you, that during my early years, while my peers were playing sports and video games, my nerdy younger self, spent way too much time with my rock tumbler.
My more recent inspiration to paint them, comes from not only that early love for all things earth but my affinity for the overlooked and items in their raw form before we as humans cut and polish them into what we deem as beautiful and or necessary. I find there to be such beauty in the things land has to offer, just as they are. I tend to paint large-scale works of the bits of earth that in reality would fit in the palm of your hand. So I like to think of myself as somewhat of an advocate for Earths’ small and overlooked pieces of itself. Giving Earth’s most simple creations a platform to be seen, on a scale that would otherwise never be viewed by the general public. When viewed at this scale and setting, my intention is to allow others the chance to see how beautifully interesting the Earth truly is no matter how small or hidden its pieces may be. Jointly what I enjoy about creating these works is the dialogue it forces me to have with the world around myself, and the viewer- begging to question our surroundings- everything from the items we may purchase to the buildings we spend our lives in. What is our relationship to them vs the earth in which they came? It allows me to live a more mindful life, which provides not only a connectedness but clarity and tranquility as well.
4. Can you describe the collaborative work you do with your wife, Kit King?
Kit and I met each other via Instagram after her finding a drawing of mine I posted to be identical to one of hers. Her knee-jerk reaction was to tear me a new one for copying her work, but thankfully Instagram has time stamps, which revealed I did mine two weeks prior to her.
For so many things that had to happen for us to meet this way, collaborating was simply the natural course of action, seeing as how we already had such similar artistic visions and styles after discovering our identical drawing fiasco. So after many months of talking about it, and crossing countries, we finally made it happen. When I met Kit for the first time, we painted our first piece together, and it was so natural and seamless, we knew we wanted more. A lot more! So I moved here full time, and having no real practice with paint, she began to put me through an intense crash course in teaching me oils. She paved a fast track for me to get good very quickly, as she herself has put in thousands upon thousands of hours to get to where she currently is. So I was lucky enough to skip much of the “what not to do’s” and go right into doing it her way. I mean the correct way. (Oops, Freudian slip there perhaps haha) She was unrelenting in her teaching, to say the least. But I’m grateful and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
So for the next year, we painted almost exclusively together. We truly enjoyed sharing the experience of creating, from the concept to the execution. After that year of collaborating, we decided to focus on our solo careers. In an attempt to find out who we are as individual artists, to then make our collaborative works even stronger when we do come back and paint together. We still paint together, but our more recent works tend to be mediums outside of paintings. When we take breaks from painting, our “days off” are often spent creating our home, mostly design based functional or sculptural artwork.
5. What are your career’s achievements you value most so far?
Oh boy, where do I start? I value each and everything that’s happened to me thus far, not to mention in such a short amount of time. From gallery and museum exhibits, to contest wins, the incredible creatives I’ve met along the way, to this very interview. The fact that people want to show my work, purchase it, or learn more about it, is an absolute honor and an achievement that I value greatly. I never thought in a million years any of this would be my reality.
6. Can you discuss some of your upcoming projects/goals?
Over the coming months, I will be preparing many new works for my very first solo show, opening September 21st, 2018 at Youn Gallery in Montreal. This show is not only special to me for it being my first solo show, but it will be at the same time as my wife’s solo show in the other half of the gallery. We’ve shown together many times before, but to share a solo exhibit at the same time in the same space is truly a dream come true. Something we’ve talked about, but is now another incredible experience we get to share together.
Among the many new paintings that I’ll be creating, I plan to implement some more sculptural works as well in the future. Taking inspiration from my fathers metal and woodworking, I’d like to slowly build a body of work that allows me to express myself in the 3-dimensional world of art that incorporate some of the very materials that I’ve been painting the past couple years.
7. How do you see the artist’s role in our society?
Artists aid in paving the way for our future. Through music, art, and literature the structure of culture is born. It is a culture that we as a society choose our paths forward as species.
To examine everything from the self, to the vastness of the human race as a whole, we must look toward the culture that shaped it. Jointly what I enjoy about creating these works is the dialogue it forces me to have with the world around myself, and the viewer- begging to question our surroundings- everything from the items we may purchase to the buildings we spend our lives in. What is our relationship to them vs the ground in which they came? It allows me to live a more mindful life, which provides not only a connectedness but clarity and tranquility as well.
Looking at it like this, one could say that the duty of the artist is to create works that not only reflect the times, but provoke a dialogue about them, and what this means for our future.
For me personally, as an advocate for the Earth, I feel it is my duty to create an awareness when I believe it’s most needed. It’s no secret our Earth is in rough shape at the moment. We have abused it for so long that we now face dire consequence. I hope that through my own work, the viewer feels a deeper connection and appreciation to our planet that leaves them with the desire to live the more mindful life that my practice instills in me, and maybe even inspires them to be proactive in doing something themselves to help mold our future.
8. Is there anything you would like to add about yourself that is not known to the public?
I’m a fairly reserved individual, so unless asked, I don’t tend to share much about myself. I’m more of a listener. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask me, so if anyone would like to know anything about me, feel free to shoot me a message and I’d be happy to answer most anything. Unless it’s to ask which ‘Friends’ character is my favorite because that’s just too difficult of a question to answer and my heart just couldn’t bear the pressure of choosing only one.