Thursday, September 02, 2010

Japanese artist in Canada, Canadian artist in Japan.

“Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art”
August 6th November 6th 2010.
the Japan Foundation
131 Bloor Street West, Suite 213
Toronto, Ontario
The Sun” by Ryoko Aoki installation at the Japan Foundation, Toronto (photo taken with permission of Japan Foundation for fQ posting)
While strolling across three big blocks along Bloor Street West from Bay to St. George I found delight. Stopping in at the Colonnade and going up to the Japan Foundation is always a good thing to do but not necessarily something I will write about. Today the current exhibition “Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art” was so unexpected I have to tell someone about it so it should be you. This show of work from 14 young Japanese artists is well worth the visit and the best group show I have seen this summer. (and) There are no fibre artists in it however the installation piece “The Sun” by Ryoko Aoki [born in Hyogo, Japan in 1973] does have some clothe in it. “Containing 14 drawings containing images of tress, varied patterns, embroidery motifs…together with pieces of brightly coloured paper and fabric. In this work the process of disintegration and reconstitution is presented on different levels.”

detail of “The Sun” by Ryoko Aoki (photo taken with permission of Japan Foundation for fQ posting)

According to the curator Midori Matsui, who is a Tokyo-based art critic and scholar: “Winter Garden, contains two opposing meanings: a “desolate garden in the winter time” or, idiomatically, a hothouse. This coexistence of opposite meanings embodies the central paradox of the exhibition. The first alludes to the difficulties of contemporary life brought on by globalization: worldwide economic depression, uniformity of living environments, and the disappearance of unique local cultures. On the other hand, the image of a hothouse suggests a space that, in spite of its small scale and closed artificial environment, nurtures organisms, including plants, insects, birds, and microbes- the elements that constitute rich and diverse layers of life. The exhibition attempts to explore the efforts of contemporary artists to make the most of the poverty and boredom inflicted by contemporary life in order to reorganize various aspects of their everyday activities and reinvent effective “ways of operating.”

This is what is exciting about the show “The poverty and boredom” evidenced in the apparent thrown togetherness of Ryoko Aoki piece shows in choice of materials in some cases, and the art historical references dislocated and possibly mocked or honored in other pieces like Hiroshi Sugito’s [born in Aichi, Japan 1970] “starry night” acrylic, pigment, paper mounted on panels, 182.0 X 242.o cm. Don’t be mislead by the title or the predominately blue painting, which along with two others by the same artist reference the 19th century Japanese prints that were influencing the impressionist movement in Europe after Japan was forced into trade in the 1860s. Sure “Starry Night” is a round about reference to Van Gough but its also a reclamation of “Orientalism” appropriated by European or rather “Western” Arts Academy.

Hiroshi Sugito “starry night” acrylic, pigment, paper mounted on panels, 182.0 X 242.o cm. (photo taken with permission of Japan Foundation for fQ posting)
 With media artist’s Taro Izumi [born in Nara Japan in 1976] videos /dvds “ Curos Cave: 2005 which has a “magic marker” drawing over moving broadcast televisions images has a frantic hopelessness, and “White Bear” 2009 with drawings on paper suspended above water which when a rocks are thrown into it witch splash the drawings which then run speaks of the redundancy of making art, both exuded a snickering childlike joy celebrating the redemptive (maybe) quality of creative thinking.

In “Winter Garden”there is beauty, sadness, intriguing stupidity : Koki Tanaka [born in Toichigi, Japan in 1975 ] videos “Light My Fire” 2002, Cause is Effect” 2005 and “turning the lights on” , 2007, and of course “manga”. Mahomi Kunikata [born in Kanagawa, Japan in 1979] paintings are acrylic on canvas, they are cluttered with characters and creatures from comics, cartoons “tarty Sailor Moons” and slightly insane “Pokémon” along with the landscapes they inhabit. They are like “Hello Kitty’s” toy or litter box. Actually it’s like seeing a painting of the interior of Magic Pony a store on Queen Street West in Toronto that specializes in toys, books and art inspired by Manga, anime, tattoos and things Japanese. You choose. There are artist as the curator tells us in her catalogue essay, working in a wide range of media in totally individual / idiosyncratic ways with materials ready to hand rather then the pricey materials of “Fine Art”.

Keisuke Yamamoto, "Untilted" 2006, oil and coloured pencil on paper 50.0 X 65.0 cm (photo taken  with permission of Japan Foundation for fQ posting)
 The last time I had the opportunity to see a group show of contemporary Japanese art was at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2008. “Great New Wave: Contemporary Art from Japan” featured the work of Takashi Murikami and Yoshimoto Nara whose work best represented the “Superflat” movement, which were being shown in Canada for the first time. This work is simple and complicated at the same time, Technology based if you can think of a pinhole camera, shadow puppets and scrolling theatre backdrops as Technology. It is a kind of animated contemporary version of historic Japanese print making styles, it is very cool Also on display was new and recent work from Manabu Ikeda, Kohei Nawa, Tabaimo and Miwa Yanagi and like this show the range went from drawing, installation, photography, sculpture, textile and video. In terms of working with material at hand Yoshiaki Kaihatsu and textile artist Sayaka Akiyama did a residency during which they gather daily ephemera, and created a large scale “Mapping Project” and turned the walls of one room into a illustrated journal.

But I digress. “Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art” is an interesting and exciting show it captures a “zeitgeist” (I hate that word but sometimes it is appropriate) of Japan’s “Gen Y”ers who seem to be capable of more then shopping and have morphed into artist with as much style as content that are capable of unpacking nearly a century and a half of reversible/ double sided colonialism. Yet again “Hard Economic Times” has given rise to an avant-garde people by a generation of navel gazers fascinated by the mundane creating work that is anything but.

Go see this show.
“Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art”
opened on August 6th and runs until November 6th 2010.  at the Japan Foundation at131 Bloor Street West, Suite 213 in Toronto, Ontario. There is a free catalogue available in English and Japanese

Magic Pony

Great New Wave: Contemporary Art from Japan May 22 to September 7, 2008 co-presented by the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Curated by Sara Knelman and Lisa Baldissera

Canadian Artist In Japan

Jacquard 2 x 2 Montréal : Tokyo
Canadian artist, Julianna Joos, Louise Lemieux Bérubé
Japanese artists, Emiko Nakano and Mitsuko Akutsu.
September 9 – November 3, 2010
Embassy of Canada Prince Takamado Gallery
7-3-38 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Un orteil dans le vide, 2009, by Louise Lemieux Bérubé , Choreographer: Sandt Bessette and Marie- Claude Roulez. Dancers: Sandy Bessette and Frederic Lemieux-Cormier, original photo by Louise Lemieux Bérubé 
This exhibition shows immense possibilities for Jacquard weavings. The art works in the exhibition further provides viewers an opportunity to examine how the participating artists adapt to new ideas to which they are exposed at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles. The MCCT was one of the first centres in the world to acquire a computerized hand Jacquard loom and to allow artists to have access to these technologies.This process enhances creativity by incorporating in a traditional technique-hand-weaving- all the possibilities of new digital technologies
Jacquard based on Mitsuko photographing her own shadow on a cobble stone street in Montreal 2008 (photo taken at Mitsuko Akutsu end of residency exhibition at the MCCT, March 11, 2009 by joe lewis
  This exhibition is held with the support of Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Dawson College and L'Agora de la danse. A presentation by Louise Lemieux Bérubé will be held in the Embassy of Canada Oscar Peterson Theatre at 18:30 on September 10. For more information and registration, please send an e-mail to

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