Japanese art in London

A wind from the East seems to have settled at the heart of our city this autumn.

As London gets ready for the Japan Matsuri festival 2014, three very different exhibitions, focused on contemporary Japanese art, have opened their doors to visitors on the East side of the city.

#ContemporaryNature , @AniseGallery , Shad Thames, London

Starting from the south of the river,on Friday the 3rd of October “Contemplative Nature”, Anise Gallery’s latest exhibition, opened its doors to showcase, for the first time outside Japan, the works of established Japanese artists Shigetomo and Setsuko Suzuki.

Picking up from the Gallery’s own architectural ethos, “Contemplative Nature” explores the relationship of both artists with the world, from two contrasting points of view.

Shigetomo and Setsuko Suzuki began their career nearly forty years ago after having trained at the prestigious Tokyo University of Arts. As many young artists they looked for their own voice by exploring the works of those who preceded them. They researched the techniques and approaches of traditional Japanese art whilst witnessing the unfolding changes in the world that surrounded them and the work of their peers.

As a result, their work sits between the traditions of the East and the West , making references and use of traditional Japanese painting techniques and methodologies which they have adapted to suit their more contemporary language.

As our media becomes populated by news on global warming and the built environment, the universal ideas embodied in the work of both artists have attracted the interest of people from both the East and West who, like Shigetomo and Setsuko, look to understand or find a world to call their own.

For details regarding opening times, location etc, follow this link

#YayoiKusama : Bronze Pumpkins , Victoria Miro Gallery , Old Street, London

In the last decade Yayoi Kusama has gone from being an almost unknown artist to the mainstream in the West to having her work exhibited at a monographic exhibition at the Tate Modern and becoming the face of a Louis Vuitton collection. And I’d say that the Victoria Miro Gallery in London has played a key role in raising awareness for the work of the artist.

There is a lot one could say about her almost obsessive paintings and the healing process they offer to her tortured mind but as this particular exhibition focuses on her best known subject, the pumpkin, I will talk about that instead.

Kusama Yayoi was born to a family of grocers in Matsumoto and ,during her childhood ,she often spent time in the family business where pumpkins were abundant . Pumpkins are resilient every day vegetables which forms are always unique. Kusama Yayoi identifies herself with them and regularly uses them in her work .

The current exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery showcases familiar yellow pumpkins but also new ones in Bronze and Mirror. The Bronze ones are the stars of the show. They have been two years in the making and are the first she has created using this particular material at a very large scale.

Having seen many of her colourful sculptures in the Uk and Japan, I feel that bronze provides her work with an unusual sense of timeless-ness. Bronze is such a traditional material to be using in sculpture that it makes one question whether the decision might be related to the artist’s awareness of her own mortality.

I also found fascinating the fact that the sculptures are a set of three. She has often expressed an affinity with pumpkins , and thinking of how the sculptures in my favourite place in the world, The comb of the wind, by one of my favourite sculptors Eduardo Chillida, are laid… and looking back at the Platonic allegory of the cave … i wonder whether the three pumpkins could be three stages in the life of the artist. Childhood, maturity and elder/wise age in increasing order…

For details regarding opening times, location etc, follow this link

#YoshitomoNara , Greetings from a Place in My Heart , Dairy Art Centre , Brunswick, London

The third and final exhibition is held at one of the most interesting  buildings I have come across lately: The Dairy Art Centre. A refurbished Dairy Depot not too far from my office which I discovered at this year’s #LondonOpenHouse. (To read about the project as such in more detail, please refer to my Mimoa feed, here )

Yoshitomo Nara is best known for his naive , playful, child like images  which are an homage of the culture of cuteness in Japan (Kawaii). This exhibition, however, looks at a body of work that expands across 30 years in the life of the artist and it is full of surprises some reaching dark spaces.

Just like Kusama, Nara too has began to work in bronze in recent years, and this exhibition has a fine collection of sculptures on display . His pieces, however, have a different quality which seems to feed seamlessly on the rest of his body of work .

Maybe it is because of the way that they are presented to the viewer textured as though they were emerging from giant pieces of clay . Or maybe because they sit on wooden crates within the gallery rather than outdoors where bronze sculptures seem to transcend to eternity . What ever the reason, I have found fascinating how the use of the same material can feel so very different in the hands of two different artists.

Let’s be honest, maybe it is my own biased mind which is aware of the fragility of one versus the relative youth of the other one… After all, our experiences of art are all subjective.

For details regarding opening times, location etc, follow this link

( By the way, for more information on #JapanMatsuriFestival , click here )

Photographs by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Writing by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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