It has been a while since I last posted, and I hope this post finds you well 😀 I got away from Auckland recently, and finally visited the land of the rising sun. I’ve been fascinated by Japan for a number of years, and I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to marvel at its epic wonders. It did not disappoint!
In between getting my geek on in ‘Akiba’ (Akihabara), soaking in the tranquillity of Fushimi Inari Taisha, and having my senses overloaded by pachinko parlours, I managed to squeeze in a little art. I visited two contemporary art galleries in the eternally intriguing city of Tokyo.
My first destination was Misako and Rosen in Kita-Ōtsuka. Ōtsuka station is a quaint stop off on the forever busy Yamanote Line, a stone throw away from the big touristy spots such as Shinjuku and Harajuku.
The small gallery is unassuming from the outside and a touch tricky to find, which simply makes the interior all the more captivating. Run by Misako and Jeffrey Rosen, it features stunning concrete stairs that sprawl the width of the gallery – a refreshing set up. Climbing these stairs adjusts your perspective on the displayed works, offering a slightly altered view with each step.
Check their website for more on the exhibitions and add it to your Tokyo ‘To Visit’ list!
I managed to catch two exhibitions at Misako and Rosen; firstly Maya Hewitt’s The forgiven ghost in me. Hewitt is a London based artist and has completed a number of residencies in Japan over the past decade. Her paintings are detailed, figurative pieces that are haunting and sombre – small scenes that allude to so much more going on. There are vibes of artists Remedios Varo and Séraphine Pick in Hewitt’s work. Her figures appear quite static which gives them a childlike quality, yet also generates a feeling of detachment. I find Hewitt’s paintings bizarrely fascinating, towing an ambiguous line between the intimate and removed. I like to think that her figures are in such deep introspection that it barely registers on their faces.
The second exhibition was Made in Tokyo by Dutch artist Daan van Golden, and marks his first solo show in Japan since living there in the ‘60s. Much like Pop Art, his works are greatly influenced by his surroundings – some of the patterns are adapted from found objects, such as wallpaper and fabrics. One even bears the words ‘Mitsukoshi’ which is the name of a Japanese department store. Yet some artworks bear splashy embellishments, and with titles like ‘Pollock’ there are evocations of Abstract Expressionism. Through enlarging particular sections of patterns it is like seeing the images afresh, highlighting the inherent structure of the decorative and the intensity of van Golden’s focus. Some of the works he has painstakingly painted, whilst others are Giclée prints. You do get the impression that van Golden is a consummate collector, constantly discovering. This exhibition presents a slideshow and photographs interspersed between his works, and I feel van Golden unifies life and art in this wonderful space. Made in Tokyo runs until Sunday 1st June 2014.
After I posted this, Contemporary Art Daily popped some pics of the exhibition online. Please follow the link below, which also includes images of those fabulous stairs:
And I thought I would add some directions for first time visitors, I hope they make sense!
1) Jump on the JR Yamanote Line to Ōtsuka station and go through the North Exit
2) Go down the centre left street which has a Starbucks on the corner
3) Stay on this street for a while until you pass a ¥100 Lawson store and see a dusty park up ahead on the right
4) Turn left (the Lawson’s isn’t quite on the corner but it should be the 8th street on your left, if you count the little lanes)
5) The gallery will be on the left hand side of the street 🙂
My second stop was SCAI The Bathhouse in Yanaka, a historical old Tokyo neighbourhood. The gallery was previously a 200 year old bath house, before being reincarnated in 1993. Some of the amazing original detailing such as the sloped tiled roof, entrance hall and lockers are still evident, and exude a lovely ambience. When venturing there from Nippori train station you pass through the tranquil Yanaka Cemetery, whose boulevards for a short time each year are covered in cherry blossoms.
A group show titled Visions of Proximity was showing when I visited, and showcased four contemporary artists of Asian descent: He Xiangyu, Haroon Mirza, Daisuke Ohba and Nobuko Tsuchiya. Working across various mediums such as sculpture, installation and painting, the artists examine synesthetic perceptions, or the way that the stimulation of one sense creates a response in another.
Stepping into SCAI The Bathhouse is almost like stepping into a hallowed muted space. And then you hear the whirring of Haroon Mirza’s Detroit Reconfigured (2012). This installation features corner walls covered with acoustic foam, opposite a speaker topped with an unusual wheel shaped attachment. At first glance it looks like the robot from Lost in Space (1965-68). It emits a droning sound and flashes LED lights intermittently and seemingly at random. I found the longer I spent with this work, the more I was able to find the rhythm within the arbitrary, inflicting my own sense of musical order as my perceptions of it altered. Sight and sound began to behave like two instruments in an orchestra playing a beautiful symphony.
Weaving further into the gallery, you encounter Log (Waterfall Behind a Tree) (2014) by Daisuke Ohba hung on the back wall. When standing before this work front on, it looks like a blank series of small tiles ready to blend into the white walls of SCAI. Then you survey it from left to right, and back again, and there is the big reveal: an exquisite landscape lush with trees. Light is your friend with Ohba’s paintings, unveiling like a magician, the image hidden within the work. He uses iridescent acrylic paint to achieve the pearly white surface that captures and reflects light, and at times throwing colours in your path. Ohba’s work is superb and serene, and I like the way he challenges how we typically view the painted surface. I must admit I had heaps of fun crouching and straining on my tippy toes, querying what I was seeing and wondering how he did it 😛 Visions of Proximity runs until Saturday 31st May, do check out their other works along with those by He Xiangyu and Nobuko Tsuchiya.
Follow the link below for more info, and their access page has directions on how to find it 🙂
Another fantastic gallery that is a ‘must see’ is the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Marunouchi. The red brick building was designed by British architect, Josiah Condor in 1894. It tends to exhibit European art of the late 19th Century, and the building and the neighbourhood is quite a contrast to the aforementioned galleries in Kita-Ōtsuka and Yanaka. It’s worth visiting for the building alone, plus the courtyard looks totally ivy league 😛
Click on the link to learn more:
Until next time Japan, I’ll be back soon x