Local artist Tiffany Atkin openly admits she’s obsessed with Japan and she describes her latest solo exhibtion as “Japanfluenced POP illustration with bite!”

In her exhibition GYARU: An exploration of femininity in contemporary Japanese pop culture, not only does the artwork look good enough to eat, the work itself explores some deeper concepts and representations of femininity within Japanese popular culture. Atkin was inspired by how individuality is asserted through fashion and behaviour, and the way this continues to fuel a sense of subversion to mainstream popular culture in Japan.

Her work culminated from many years of ideas, adventures, life lessons, late nights, growth, discovery, loves, losses and a heartfelt respect for a land and culture so significant to her journey as an artist and human.

Local businesses Lust for Life, iro iro POP!, Harajuku Gyoza, 4 Pines Brewing Company, Maiocchi and Takara Gallery Workroom (Japan) have jumped on board to support the talented artist too.

Between the moments of creating and drawing, we managed to sit Tiffany down and discuss her exhibition and her life as an artist.

When did your love affair with Japan begin?

I studied Japanese language and culture in my early school years and continued throughout high school and uni. When I finally moved to Tokyo in 2010 (alone, with no real plan), it was a massive influence on me, both creatively and as a young woman finding my way in the world.

The culture shock was something I embraced, there was certainly an adjustment period as anyone who has spent time actually living in a different country will confirm (particularly one as different as Japan), but I truly loved every moment of altering my perceptions and understanding on everything from making and exhibiting art, designing for Japanese clients, to just buying groceries, social interactions and daily life in general.

I was lucky to have Japanese language skills and an established friend circle there, which made the transition much easier. The whole experience really changed my outlook on so many things, and Tokyo is still my creative muse. The love affair continues!

Have you always wanted to be an artist? Are you fulfilled on your journey? What are your aspirations?

Oddly enough, I was once hurtling down a musical path and probably thought I was going to be some guitar-wielding Aussie rock chick (ha!). I grew up in a musical family (my parents met when my dad joined my mum’s band) and used to write and perform a lot of music both solo and in bands and duos. I had some interest from a few industry notables about recording an album, but I was young and very naive and it all fell through, which was a blessing in hindsight.

I signed up to uni to study design as a backup if my “music career” didn’t eventuate. It sounds really funny to me now looking back, because it didn’t take long to get completely hooked on art, design and illustration, and I have made it my career. I still make music in my home studio, it’s a nice little break from design and illustration that still lets me make something and express myself in a different way.

I’ve recently been working on a few projects where I can combine music and art, and one of my goals for 2015 is to develop that a little more. I am also working towards a show in Tokyo in 2016. I think as an artist, we are never fulfilled, as soon as you feel like you’ve “made it” then you’re no longer growing or moving forward and pretty soon you’ll be left behind. It’s up to us as creatives to constantly keep developing, evolving and seeking our own truths. The journey is never over.

Artists that inspire you?

I admire artists who have made a great career out of their craft. Illustrators like Kat Macleod, Beci Orpin, Bec Winnel, Rik Lee and Bei Badgirl. I am also really inspired by Japanese artists like Yayoi Kusama, and an artist called Xhxix (he is really secretive about his identity but his work is incredible). I also admire lady musos like Adalita, Ella Hooper and Patience from The Grates. They’re just rad folk doing rad things AND they are super nice people.

What do you want people to say as they wander through your exhibition?

“Jeeves, I’ll take one of everything, thank you!” Seriously though, I just want people to feel what I felt when I created the work. Everything in this show is a culmination of many years of ideas and fascination with the beautiful enigma that is Japan. I hope that this underlying personal journey can be felt and appreciated by everyone who views the work.

Best life advice you’ve ever received?

“The only one you truly need to convince/ impress is your toughest critic of all – yourself.” In my industry, and especially with the prevalence of social media, it’s tempting to get hung up on what others are doing/ thinking/ saying/ eating/ breathing/ brushing their teeth with, but ultimately it’s just a waste of time comparing yourself – time that could be spent making something that you can be proud of.

Having said that, I actually really do value social media, it has been a wonderful tool for me to gain exposure and reach a larger audience, but in moderation. I think most would agree it’s a dangerous vice when combined with self-doubt or a bad attitude.

Tell me about some of your experiences in Japan and what they taught you?

I could probably write a very long-winded essay on this subject, but to put it simply – life in Japan not only inspired me artistically, but also changed my perspective on things in general. The efficiency of daily routines and the respect people have for one another has definitely influenced the way I live my life. Moving to a new city alone is also a pretty liberating experience, and Japan was the perfect place to nurture my need for new adventures.

All in all I’d say my experiences in Japan (both as a regular tourist and temporary resident) have given me the confidence in myself as an artist and capable human adult. If I can navigate Shinjuku station, which should have its own postcode, then I’m sure I can (insert seemingly difficult task here!).

GYARU: An exploration of femininity in contemporary Japanese pop culture opens February 5 at Lust for Life Gallery. There will be VIP goody bags for the first few people through the door on opening night so make sure you get there early. For more details, check out our event guide listing.