Musings on Art

Bright Lights, Big City

Whilst flicking through the newspaper the other day, my eyes were caught by the image that accompanied no. 6 of 9 Fun Things to Do This Weekend.  The blazing, bright LED signage was reminiscent of the neon drenched terrain of my beloved Tokyo, so I set out to find a Scotties Boutique to see the work of multimedia artist, Jade Townsend.

Situated on Lorne Street, Scotties stocks high end fashion designers such as Lanvin, Nina Ricci and Comme des Garçons, whom initially commissioned Townsend to create her LED artworks for their I.T Beijing Market store in 2014.  She was the first woman to exhibit at the concept store, and spent three months in Beijing exploring consumerism and retail trends.  Townsend is interested in why we buy new jeans that are made to look old,[1] and the peculiarity and irrationality of aesthetics in fashion.

Titled End – User (2016), Townsend includes some photographs of the recently closed Kirkcaldie and Stains department store in Wellington, but my interest here lies in her work with LEDs.  The artwork takes centre stage in the window display at Scotties, surrounded by almost equally luminous (and desirable) objects such as Bao Bao Issey Miyake bags.  The irradiant glow of these pieces can be seen from across the street, and I wish I had actually seen them at night.  Townsend is fascinated by the push and pull nature of these lit signs; in Beijing their lurid vividness is unmistakable through the haze and smog, seemingly glamorous and alluring, they draw you to places that perhaps aren’t the case.[2]  This disparity can be likened to when we buy things that we don’t necessarily need, such as luxury goods, and the cognitive dissonance that arises after purchase.  Cognitive dissonance is when a person has conflicting attitudes about a product or service, and tends to be greater when there are a number of attractive choices available and/or it requires a higher level of commitment of time or money.  Such dissatisfaction can be a reason why people return certain items.

A reflection of her time there and China’s role as super producers and consumers, Townsend’s two light works each spell out a word in English and in Chinese characters.  The English word is ‘Typical’, and a quick Google indicates that the characters 奢华 read ‘extravagant or luxurious’ (presuming Google Translate is correct).  Townsend states in the accompanying text that the Chinese characters are approximate translations of English concepts.  Hence, there is a play on language as the origins and meaning of words is muddied; China has become more synonymous with luxury brands than anywhere else in the world.  The juxtaposition of these two words is striking – has our desire for luxury goods become typical and commonplace?  Have we, the consumers, become so conditioned to want the items that celebrities tote in magazines and on Instagram, that we don’t stop to ask why we need it?  What is of further fascination is that the word ‘luxury’ is banned from billboard advertising in China, to remove the obviousness of the class divide and wealth gap in the country.[3]  In a way, the characters could soon be as foreign in China as they are here to non-Chinese speakers.

I found the placement of these artworks within a boutique to be greatly engaging, as it lures us in and celebrates our need to consume, whilst equally questioning it.  After a while, you think that we would become desensitised to the allure due to the sheer number of glistening signs, but I suspect their glare and gleam won’t ever quite die down 😀

Both links are about Townsend’s time in Beijing, the first is an interview on Radio New Zealand, and the second is an article from The Wireless:

And she also recently exhibited at Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua:

Jade Townsend is exhibiting works at both Scotties Boutiques, the one in Auckland CBD is located at 3 Lorne Street, and the other is at 2 Blake Street, Ponsonby.   Her artworks are on until Thursday 23rd June 2016.  Do check them out!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂


[1] Jade Townsend, ‘Standing Room Only: Jade Townsend’, radio interview with Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, broadcast Sunday 15 February 2015,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


Flock west by Niki Hastings-McFall


I hope you are all surviving winter – it’s been mighty chilly in Auckland these last few months, though definitely not as cold as other parts of the country 😛

It’s always exciting when you come across an installation where the respective pieces meld together synergistically, to create a remarkable and stimulating work.  Flock west by West Auckland artist and ornithophile Niki Hastings-McFall, is an enlivening exhibition.  When wandering through Gallery 1 at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, the sights and sounds could be mistaken for the glorious outdoors.

The installation features simplified birds made from radiantly coloured acrylic, which are suspended from the gallery ceiling at varying heights.  A little natural light streams in from the windows producing tinged shadows that play on the walls.  The effect resembles the canopy of a forest: this is further enhanced by a recording of bird sounds that echoes through the space, and by a fan which delicately generates a breeze causing the birds to twirl.  Together these elements create the sense of a living breathing forest, a beautifully animated environment.  There is something delightfully serene about Hastings-McFall’s work, and I feel like I can breathe easily as I soak it all in – not unlike a good trek outdoors through our enviable native bush.

The choice of birds is significant on both personal and broader levels, as Hastings-McFall is an avid bird rescuer, her home acts as an avian refuge, and they appear in almost all cultures, such as the piwakawaka (fantail) in Maori mythology or the phoenix in Chinese lore.  Hence, they are creatures that all New Zealanders can identify with, a commonality across the multitude of cultures that make up our great country.  When discussing her fascination with birds in an interview with the NZ Herald earlier this year, she stated that ‘birds are in every culture’s fables or vernacular sayings, they’re the connection between the earth-bound and the heavenly.’[1]

Drawing upon bird shaped amulets and carved forms within the Pacific collection at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and H.D. Skinner’s Journal of the Polynesian Society,[2] Hastings-McFall has looked to pre-colonial sources for inspiration, again examining her own Samoan and European heritage.  She often reflects on cross-cultural exchanges in the materials she utilises, and in this instance she has modelled traditional items with a modern synthetic polymer.  So much of our identity is bound up with materials and objects, and by altering the materials, Hastings-McFall brings the sense of self into question.

Furthermore, as much of who we are relates to where we are born and raised, Flock west is also a response to the rapidly changing landscape.  Auckland in particular, is experiencing housing problems and increasing traffic congestion, which may lead to a greater number of highrise apartments in the suburbs and less space for habitats.  Through using creatures such as birds which all New Zealanders can identify with, Hastings-McFall emphasises what can be lost.  Let’s hope the calls of our native birds never becomes a rarity.  A tranquil, insightful exhibition, not to be missed.

Flock west is exhibiting at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson until Sunday 6th September 2015.  Public programmes include:

  • An artists’ floor talk on Saturday 29th August, 11am where Hastings-McFall will discuss her works along with fellow exhibitors Leon van de Eijkel and Jeff Thomson.
  • Saturday Gallery Club #7 (free for families with kids aged 4 +) on Saturday 8th August 10:30am-12pm, where they can make hand cut stickers of bird shapes out of reflective vinyl.

For more info on the exhibition and Hastings-McFall’s art, please click on the links to Corban Estate and Whitespace:

Some other great links are the Twelve Questions article in the NZ Herald and a Radio NZ clip from earlier this year:


[1] Ana Samways, ‘Twelve Questions: Niki Hastings-McFall,’ New Zealand Herald, January 29, 2015.

[2] Niki Hastings-McFall, Flock exhibition statement, Whitespace Contemporary Art, 2015, quoted in Kathryn Tsui, Flock west exhibition statement, Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2015.


Iain Cheesman: Visionary Moments

Iain Cheesman is an artist who intrigues me.  His works traverse sculpture, assemblage, painting and installation, and what I immediately enjoy about them is their tactile nature and irreverent humour.  Frequently there are deeper references or subtext in his art, some of which are detectable, whilst others are more cryptic and require greater contemplation.

Cheesman has been quite prodigious over the past few years, exhibiting nationally at Corban Estate Arts Centre, The Young Wellington, The Vivian in Matakana, etc. and what is evident is his constant exploration of various materials.  I am a great fan of his text works and most I have encountered tend to be sculptural pieces made from PVC.  Here, in this amusing exhibition Visionary Moments, Cheesman has again included text but instead the words are created by holes punched into calfskins.

Blanketing an entire wall of the Little Gallery at the Pah Homestead, each calfskin features a word broken down into syllables.  After a fair bit of sounding out the words, I realised each calfskin was perforated with the name of an art movement.  Some of these syllables have been turned into homonyms e.g. Futurist = FEW / CHUR / WRIST, Surrealism = SIR / REAL / IS / HIM, and thus changing how they are read.  Cheesman drolly toys with language in these artworks, how it has evolved and been re-shaped, as the syllables are almost rendered unfamiliar and foreign.  I laughed at how long it took me to comprehend what I was reading aloud 😛

This exhibition is a study in semiotics, testing how people interpret and derive meaning.  The syllables can be viewed as individual words or part of a whole, and invite different narratives and understanding.  The title Visionary Moments is a play on words: these works trifle with our vision, as the punched holes appear and disappear before our eyes and cast marvellous shadows on the back wall.  Furthermore, such art movements (mostly modern and occurring in the 20th and 21st Centuries) would have been considered ‘visionary’ in their time.

Cheesman’s works can be seen as declarative emblems of identification and allegiance, yet I also see them as chapters in a book on art history.  Art movements have loosely defined start and end dates, or are often defined after the fact, grouping artists who are working at the same time or towards a common goal.  For instance, Post-Impressionism included artists Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat, who each had distinct styles and techniques yet were all reacting to Impressionism.

Hence, these calfskins emphasise the multitude of ‘visionary’ influences that artists can draw upon.  By changing how we read and interpret language, he changes how we can interpret their art and the influence of these –isms.  They offer up the prospect of these art movements being rewritten and understood differently by individuals, and the textured amorphic sculptures by the window are like stand-ins for viewers absorbing all before them.  Playful, witty, and loaded with curious moments, this exhibition is a must see!

Iain Cheesman will be giving an artist talk on Saturday 23rd May at 12:30pm.  Visionary Moments is on until Sunday 7th June 2015 at the Little Gallery, Pah Homestead, in Hillsborough.

For more information on the artist and this exhibition, please check out the following links:


Musings on Art

Seung Yul Oh | SOOM & OnDo

Two, new, fabulous artworks by Seung Yul Oh have recently been installed in Auckland.  I think he does some of the best public art pieces around, as they are always lively, playful works that invite interaction and exchange.

The first work can be found when you go for a wander to the top floor of the Auckland Art Gallery and out onto the Edmiston North Sculpture Terrace.  Titled SOOM (2014) which is Korean for ‘breath’, it consists of mammoth, gauzy bubbles made from PVC, highlighting Oh’s characteristic interest in varying materials.

When I saw this incredible installation, I was honestly reminded of the first 7 seconds of this clip:

Oxygenated to full beach ball buoyancy, you can see the level of attention paid to the way that the surfaces of bubbles become flat when they latch to each other.  Furthermore, there are mirrors on the base of the bubbles that are anchored to the ground, allowing you to see inside and to catch the shifting light.  They wobble slightly in a gentle breeze, and it is easy to imagine these floating into the park or onto the street in stronger winds.  The combination of light and airy movement does make this installation appear as if it is ‘breathing’ with its own life.

As whimsical as Oh’s work is, there is something disconcerting about it: the bubbles seem as if you could easily pop them with sharp nails, yet they are surprisingly sturdy and large enough to ensnare a person.  There is also a fascinating tension between their size and transparency – these bubbles are both visible and invisible, they are seen and seen through.

Supported by the Chartwell Trust and Fabric Structure Systems, SOOM will be on display until Sunday 11th October 2015.

The second work newly appeared in Ballantyne Square, a park on Dominion Road not far from Countdown.  This striking installation is called OnDo (2015) and features gargantuan chopsticks and buckwheat noodles.  Noodles?!  Yes, noodles, and I love, love, love this work.

When I initially saw this, I was reminded of Japan and the plastic food replicas in restaurant windows which give you an indication of what the meals look like.  There are echoes of Pop Artist Claes Oldenburg, and his oversized food sculptures that elevated and monumentalised everyday objects.  The way that the noodles are suspended raises questions, mainly, how did he do it?  There is likely a supportive column in the middle of the noodles, and I suspect they are made from cables that are covered in styrofoam.  Yet I cannot be sure and it is not immediately discernible, thus the illusion and the sense of wonderment are maintained.  This artwork furthermore emphasises Oh’s masterful handling of a myriad of materials.

Oh’s installation is an ode to the vast array of delicious Asian restaurants on Dominion Road.  The orange barriers that encircle the work are part of it, as is the rubble that is intertwined with the noodles, which make reference to the ongoing construction on the road.  Also if you look closely you can see the artist’s name and title on the barriers in English and Korean.  Beautiful.  And if this work makes you hungry, you don’t have to walk too far to get a good feed 🙂  This is a temporary installation, so be sure to see it in person asap!

Thanks for reading 😀



Light Show

A belated Happy New Year!

2014 was pretty epic, and here’s hoping 2015 will be equally exciting and rewarding!  After what has been more than a month of flawlessly sunny weather, today has brought some stubborn grey clouds and the patter of rain.  Perhaps a sign I should be writing 🙂

I recently caught the Light Show at Auckland Art Gallery, and may I simply say, mind blown.  Audacious in breadth and spectacle, it features object and installation works by about 20 artists from the 1960s till today, all with a focus on light.

Taking up two floors of the gallery, these artworks are highly experiential – you have to wander through them, engage your senses and have your perceptions tested.  Light can be all encompassing and pervasive, and thus alter environments.  I almost didn’t recognise some of the gallery spaces that I had visited for previous exhibitions, as they were shrouded in darkness or fully transformed by light and colour.  A number of the works require you to stop and wait, as time plays a role in how light behaves.

There is such a broad spectrum of works in the Light Show that everyone is bound to have favourites, and there were definitely a few that captured my attention.  On the ground floor, Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation (2013) involves roaming through three rooms, each separately lit with red, green and blue light.  You can explore these spaces clockwise or anti-clockwise and thus alter the transitions of colour.  It takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the intensity of the light, but it is a riveting experience.  The white cubes suspended high up in the corners of the space, at the points where the colour of the light changes, were particularly fascinating.  One face of the cube is lit with the colour of the bygone room whilst another is shaded with the imminent hue, like signalling beacons lighting your journey.

Get a glimpse of Chromosaturation at 0:10 of the following video:

On the same floor is another spectacular work by Cerith Wyn Evans, titled S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive’s overspill…’) (2010).  Three massive transparent columns filled with light filaments run from the ceiling to the floor.  In some ways they resemble Classical ruins or totem poles, and you can easily feel dwarfed by these gigantic ‘suns’.  As one column gradually dims, another subsequently illuminates the darkened room, generating a wonderful rhythm amongst the trio.  The way the columns irradiate can be likened to breathing; giving visuals to a nearly invisible action we do every day.  Beautifully constructed, Evans’ work give off a discernable heat, like they are truly alive.

You can catch Evans’ work breathing at 3:22:

Heading upstairs to the second floor of the exhibition, I was captivated by the sensory challenging work of Olafur Eliasson.  Model for a Timeless Garden (2011) features an elevated bench with an array of small waterfalls, at the other end of a pitch black room pulsating with strobe lighting.  Not for the light sensitive, it can be a bit difficult to make your way towards the waterfalls, but it is definitely worth it.  Initially I thought my eyes were deceiving me, that they weren’t actual waterfalls, but you can feel sprays of water when up close.  The strobe lighting interrupts how we normally view water, with the lapses of time freezing, and in some cases reversing, the cascading flow.  The way that the light fractures the water makes the droplets seem more solid, like falling crystals.  Spellbinding, bewildering, this artwork definitely raised questions about how he did it and whether I needed to get my vision checked 😛

A short clip of Eliasson’s work in motion, if you are sensitive to strobe lighting please take care!

Lastly, my final favourite certainly caught me off guard.  After seeing Eliasson’s I really didn’t think anything could equal it in terms of playing with perception.  Directly around the corner was the back of Exploded View (Commuters) (2011) by Jim Campbell, which at first seemed like it was just flickering fairy lights.  I didn’t quite get it, until I noticed people’s amazement when they were looking at it from the front.  Only then did I realise the genius of his work.  These lights create a consolidated moving image, one that comes into vision from a specific angle, and becomes sharper and more three-dimensional at a greater distance.  Ultimately it’s like you are watching a movie of commuters walking across the screen.  The mind attempts to reconcile these arbitrarily lit bulbs with the complete image before you.  Utterly mesmerising and enthralling.

Like pure magic, click to 2:53 to see the work at a distance, but definitely have a listen to Campbell’s explaining the work:

The Light Show concludes on Sunday 8th February at Auckland Art Gallery, a must see!


Musings on Art

Through the Revolving Door

It is that time of the year again: Artweek Auckland!  And, I got on one of the collection tours!  I missed out last year as they book up fast, but I was determined this time around, and had my game face on.  I chose the Chapman Tripp and ANZ Centre tour, as the collection contains a number of impressive artworks by fantastic artists.

The artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer were selected by Paul Baragwanath, director of ARTTFORM, in consultation with architects Warren and Mahoney (WaM), Precinct Properties and ANZ Bank.  Each work was commissioned, and there is an overarching theme of the natural world and drawing the outdoors in.

Working in an anti-clockwise fashion from the main revolving door that opens onto Albert St, is the first of many stunners.  Placed near the escalators on the far right of the building, Birds and Boats (2013) by Neil Dawson features intricate sailboats constructed from painted steel.  The abstracted pattern could also resemble the wings of birds and swelling waves.  The burnished metal catches and throws light, of which this building has an abundance of, and further highlights the complexity and detail of Dawson’s sculpture.  When viewed from the main doors, the eye is drawn to the contrasting geometry of the spherical shape of his work which is framed by the square gap in the inner wall.

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Moving up the escalator from Dawson’s artwork and behind the concierge’s desk, is an inescapable work titled Orangery (2013, vinyl installation on glass, 400 x 1600 m) by Sara Hughes.  This captivating installation consists of pale hued vinyl affixed on both sides of the glass, with slashes of green that look like blades of fresh grass.  Cut into the shape of leaves, the layering of the vinyl is reminiscent of fallen foliage.  Hughes’ work needed to be transparent to allow light into the foyer, and in a way it acts like a curtain to allow the ivy on the wall behind to grow.  I think it generates great interest – it makes you want to find a gap and peer through it, or examine the differing colour combinations created from the vinyl overlapping.  At certain times of the day, the leaves multiply as the vinyl casts shadows on the marble floor.

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

It is pretty hard to ignore Winston Roeth’s work.  In a Silent Way (2012, Kremer pigments with polyurethane dispersion, cellulose and water on aluminium core board panels, 4565 x 4264 mm) comprises of 12 panels, each with a distinct hum.  American artist Roeth created all the colours himself, and they can be difficult to characterise.  At different times of the day and with light streaming from various origins, the oscillations in the colours are fascinating and mercurial.  The gold borders on each are also of slightly differing shades: the gold on the top left orange panel and the far right purple seemed more bronzed, whilst it looked more silvery around the pale blue panel in the top row (at the particular time I was looking at them).  Roeth’s artwork is compelling to observe, and can be seen from many angles around the foyer, thus was designed without a singular focal point.

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Circling around to the back left of the foyer is another Sara Hughes.  I have long been a fan of Hughes’ work and was delighted to find not one, but two of her commissions here.  Placed in a narrow, historic corridor is Wintergarden (2014, LED light and Plexiglas) an exquisite installation inspired by pendulous wisteria and other flora, like those seen in Auckland’s Wintergarden.  Each leaf/blade has an LED light which diffuses down and then along the length of the leaf/blade.  The subtle modulations in colour and light are computer powered, and the leaves/blades vacillate along the colour spectrum through blues, greens, purples, yellows and pinks.  With its low ceiling this work has a graceful, elegant magic, not unlike twinkling stars or a wind rustling through leaves.  As modifications could not be made to the corridor and wary that it would see its fair share of foot traffic, Hughes’ artwork responds to and invigorates the space.

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Passing through the corridor you encounter Piki Ake_Rise Up by Peata Larkin (2013, acrylic on gauze weave on lightbox, 2400 x 3700 x 90 mm).  Positioned opposite the elevators that lead down to the carpark, her work acts as a welcome; a bright reception for those arriving from the basement.  Larkin’s process is engrossing: the surface of the weave is painted white and then sensational baubles of paint are pushed through the back, before it is mounted on an LED lightbox.  With its ziggurat design, the artwork has a glittery Art Deco vibe.  Larkin draws from her Māori heritage, as the design resembles the poutama (stepped/stairway to heaven) tukutuku panelling pattern.  The use of blue and white makes this work seem heavenly and transcendental, and it is extraordinary to view up close and at a distance, during the day and at night.  You can read more about Peata Larkin in a previous post I wrote.

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close Up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

This post focussed on the artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer as they are easily accessible, yet if you are ever in the Chapman Tripp offices do take a look at their collection of objects.  All relate to the theme of sustainability and some to look out for are:

  • Sriwhana Sprong’s coke bottles, Givenchy perfume bottles, cow bells and matches, made from lac that will melt if left in the sun. Completely pitch black with a lustrous sheen, each item is delicately rendered and engages with the senses.  Sprong’s work points to the influence of consumerism and the throwaway culture that has arisen.
  • A paint tube made from greywacke by Joe Sheehan. The invention of the paint tube was a catalyst in the practice of painting, allowing the Impressionists to venture outside (en plein air) to capture scenes and changing light in the moment.  The weight of the tube could be likened to its importance in the history of art making, and that it cannot be so easily disposed of, as it is a solid rock that is common to New Zealand.
  • An axe with flowers growing out the handle by Peter Madden. Utilising old National Geographic magazines, Madden cuts up the images and pages to create this work.  There are themes of creation, destruction, rejuvenation and recycling with Madden’s art, and there is an interesting dynamic when you think of how axes are used to fell something yet here they have sprouted life.
  • Each of Janet Green’s ceramic goblets features a skull in relief, to serve as a reminder about mortality – a humorous placement for lawyers’ offices. The goblets have a delightful matte texture, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the search for the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).  Likely my fave out of the four films, probably due to Sean Connery 🙂

I hope you all got out and about to see some of the amazing things on offer during Artweek!

For more info on Artweek Auckland please see:



Tokyo Love ♥


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.

Misako and Rosen, Kita-Ōtsuka (exterior). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

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.

SCAI The Bathhouse, Yanaka (exterior). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

SCAI The Bathhouse, Yanaka (lockers). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

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