Thursday, December 11, 2008


an amazing example of lightwriting which was part of the art festival in Kanazawa

Thursday, December 4, 2008

salon des refusés

Some decided to brush off old art history practice and created salon des refusés at which presents emerging artists from Japan who obviously did not make it to Yokohama Triennale. I won't argue whether they should be there or not but one thing I agree on though - certainly Hiraki Sawa work Hako would fit Triennale's theme Time Crevasse better than most of the works presented. Hako is a six channel video installation which combains images and subtle digital animation. The title means 'box' and refers to the box garden therapies used by psychologists. In this form of treatment a doctor gives a patient an empty box and a set of miniature objects of which each one has a symbolic meaning. The patient is then asked to furnish the box with these elements, to create personal garden, which the doctor then analyses.

Hiraki Sawa, Hako, 2007, six channel video installation
(from top to bottom) 'talking to the wall', 'for a moment', 'fragments'

Similarly, Sawa builds such a garden himself - a blend of fantasy and reality with its own time frame set by the toy wall clock and then allows the viewers to experiance it as we would be experiancing someone's other memory or subconsiousness.
It's really a pitty that this year Triennale curators overlooked this work which was displayed in NACT as part of Artist File 2008 exhibition only this spring and the artist has already built up his reputation being part of few international shows such as EastInternational or Lyon Biennale.

To see Sawa previous works go to:

Sunday, November 30, 2008


The word crisis has made an international career and allegedly ended Chinese contemporary art boom. On Nov sales at Christie's HK only 52% of Chinese and 40% Korean were sold compared to 66% of the works by Japanese artists. Is it time for Japanese contemporary art now or just a temporary turn of collectors' attention in the times when the economy is low?

Tetsuya Ishida, Untitled, oil on canvas, 2001

The strongest performing Japanese artist was Tetsuya Ishida, a painter (died at 31 in 2005 in the train accident) depecting Japanese youths and their conditions of life in response to society and technology's expectation upon them.

photo: Christie's

Hiroyuki Matsuura
, Kingyo-hime, acrilic on canvas, 2008

Another artist who was selling well was Hiroyuki Matsuura who depictes a fantastical universe in which Japanese often immerse when the real world is too disappointing. The digital realm and its characters provide solace and companionship. Here the Princess Goldfish inspired by Takashima Kazusa anime where a goldfish turns into a woman for one night to thank a boy for saving her.

photo: Christie's

Monday, November 24, 2008

onnanoko shashinka

Acclaimed as one of the most popular photographer in Japan (her photobooks are bestsellers), promoted by Tomio Koyama gallery which brought on international art scene such artists as Murakami or Nara, director whose film Sakurana made it to Berlin Film Festival has now her retrospective show at TOCAG.

Mika Ninagawa is often descibed as second generation onnanoko shasinka (girlie photographers)* but her style has not much to do with it as her photographs are carefully composed, technically advanced and most of them lack of snapshot aesthetic. I like the comparison Gary McLeod made in his review saying that walking through this exhibition feels like flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine.
Mika Ninagawa, Smart girls vol.7, Hoshiko, C-print
Since her photos are well secured from free cirulation as befits an advertising professional for further reference check her official web at
* dozen of Japanese female photographers whose work was largely characterized by low-tech, out-of-focused snap shoots of their daily lives. To find their place in male dominated society of photographers most of the pictures were bra-and-panties type but ever since their success in early 90s their style has evolved.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

humour in Japanese art

Iichiro Tanaka is an upcoming Japanese artist who employes humor into his ceation. Cunning, a bit peculiar and achived with very simple means. Here two of his works as examples.

Iichiro Tanaka, Drop-eyed Daruma, 2002, mixed media
First one presents Daruma, a wish doll which has a face with a mustache and beard but without eyes. One eye is painted on while making a wish, the other when the has come true fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish.

Iichiro Tanaka, classical music karaoke, 2006, DVD 11.5min.

The other explores fenomena of karaoke in which the greatest classical music masterpieces has been converted into 'hummable' nonsense momoslyllabes allowing visitors to sing along.

photos from

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Japan at 53. Venice Biennale

Miwa Yanagi will represent Japan at 53. Venice Biennale next year. The working title of her piece is Strolling Party: The Old Young Women Theatre Company. Japan Pavilion has been designed by Takamasa Yoshizaka (photos below after Japan Foundation)

Speaking of Venice Biennale this is how the last decade looked like:

Rei Naito
Tatsuo Miyajima, "Revive Time" Kaki Tree
Project Executive Committee
Naoya Hatakeyama, Masato Nakamura,
Yukio Fujimoto
Yutaka Sone, Motohiko Odani
Miyako Ishiuchi
52. 2007
Masao Okabe

Japanese artists at Yokohama Triennale

The recent edition of Yokohama Triennale unusually features less Japanese artists than previous ones. On top of that out of 10 or so Japanese artist some are better known abroad (Yoko Ono, Ei Ararakawa who got New Museum award this year, Aki Sasamoto or Naito Rei who asked the viewers on 47. Venice Biennale to queue to see her artwork). Some other as Teshigawara Saburo and Tanaka Min come outside the artworld. The rest have been already shining brightly on the Japanese art sky. Here are some photos of the exhibited artworks.

Chelfitsh, Free time, 2008 performance at Cafe DeLuxe 18.03.08

A para-theatrical group established in 1997 by Okada Toshiki who uses in his performances what he calls super-real Japanese which are dialogues composed from modern language of young people.

Nakaya Fujiko, Fog sculture, 2008

Ohmaki Shinji, Memorial Rebith, performance 2008
If anyone entering the art gallery have ever thought about destroying an artwork he should definately experiance Ohmaki art as it often allows that. The recent work for triennali is not that spectacular in this sense as one of the previous - Echoes (2005) - when he let the viewers trodded upon floral patterns on the gallery floor making them more blur and blur until they disappaered.

Naito Rei, untitled (matrix), 2008
At Yokohama Triennale she displayed in the traditional japanese tea house one of her ethereal installation where the wire attached to the ceiling dances being heated.

scan of Naoya Hatakeyama photo

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

some contemporary history

In the early 90s Ozawa Tsuyoshi along with Murakami Takashi, Nakamura Masato and Aida Makoto revolutionized the Japanese art scene. His most well known project is Nasubi Gallery, which is a satirical comment on the rental gallery system in Japan.

Ozawa Tsuyoshi, Nasubi gallery 1993-2003
In 1993 in front of the "Nabisu Gallery" in Ginza, Toyko, Ozawa opened a miniature portable gallery made of converted milk delivery boxes which housed other artists exhibition without the fees that rental galleries such as Nabisu charged. Because of its size, Ozawa Nasubi Gallery popped up in the streets of Tokyo, bookshops, cinemas, libraries and international art exhibitions. Many artists had shown their work there including Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami. Ozawa belonged to what is now called in art history lingo Tokyo Pop. Amongst his other works are The Museum of Soy Sauce Art with paintings made in soy sauce and Vegetable Weapons - photographs of girls from different countries holding "guns" made from vegetables.


Chim↑Pom is a name of six-person artist group formed in 2005 which is a reference to a childish word for penis in Japanese. The group godfather is Aida Makoto, an enfant terrible of Japanese contemporary art.

Recently Chim↑Pom made it to the media while preparing work for Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art show. On the cloudless Hiroshima blue sky they wrote with the aeroplane smoke the word pika which Japanese use in manga to discribe explosion or blast. This triggered a crushing ctiticism of the atomic bomb victims which resulted in exhibition cancellation and public apology of the curator. Even the usually carefree group leader went on explaining that work was to draw young generation attantion to atomic bombing not to hurt anyone's feeling but all his efforts were in vain.
Continue reading
However this is not the first time when they are subject of controversy as in group DNA is to provoke and shake the society. One of other quite recent Chim↑Pom work made in Bali is Saya mau perigi ke TPA (Take me to the garbage disposal plant) an installation incuding video showing Ellie, the only female member as a cashed-up Japanese tourist dumping rubbish from helicopter onto a garbage pile where locals look for scavenges. Yet another shows Louis Vuitton bags (ones that each Japanese girl got to have) been blown in Cambodia with the unexpolded landmines .
Chim↑Pom, Saya mau perigi ke TPA, 2008, installation,
Courtesy of Mujin-to Production
I hope that Hiroshima scandal did not squeez their balls too much and soon they will be back with another subversive work.

Chim↑Pom, part of installation in NADiff, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

jungle phone

Jungle phone is Dai Fujiwara and Issey Miyake Creative Room installation currently on display in MOT as a part of Color hunting in Brasil exhibition. It is based on Keiji Koga discovery in which plants are transmitting sounds. The soundtrack for the occasion was produced by Sacha Gottiano who did a wonderful job to make us feel as though plants were talking!
Pitty that I couldn't take any photo nor get one from the organizers as the contract with the artist does not provision such option. Well ..

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mai Ueda poetry

Mai Ueda is a New York based digital and performance artist. Her works explores digital pop culture, sexuality and porn. Here is some of her poetry - songs, like the ones everybody sings in the shower. She sings only one line and people imagine the rest.

performance in Athens at Bios, July 16, 2008

Mai has already participated in many major art events such as the Tirana Biennale, Biennial of Lyon, and recently in Chanel Mobile Art . She believes that websites are new art objects and collects different .coms such as, hoping that in near future she will sell them with profit.
See more at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Paris Photo: focus Japan

Photography in Japan seems to be the media which does not have much of Western influeunce and brings up new quality to the field. That's why it is not surprising that it already gained world recognition and is on the spotlight during this year Paris Photo. Below just a random selecion of artist who are shown during the exhibition and fair.

Ueda Yoshihiko, Bones and stoneware, recent
The series Bones and stoneware is the recent project of this leading contemporary photographers with the advertising background in which he collaborated with University of Tokyo photographing the collections of the university museum.

Ikeda Akiko, Their sight/your sight (since 2000)
Yoneda Tomoko, Lovers from After the thaw series, 2004
Seemingly ordinary photo which turns out to be battle fields which changed the course of history or places after the great disasters. And then suddenly our perception changes - the photographs are no longer so ordinary.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

project room: paramodel

I've just come back from Tokyo Wonder Site where I saw an awesome installation by Yasuhiko Hayashi and Yusuke Nakano, an artist duo from Osaka prefecture currently based in Kyoto. What they do as PARAMODEL is covering white gallery walls with plastic toy train rail tracks which wind endlessly covering everything from the floor to the ceiling. They look like graffiti from the distance and like a rail road map from a close up where respective elements of the urban landscape are recognizable. All has a stunning visual effect!
Paramodel, Paramodelic graffiti, 2005, Kyoto Art Center
When I google them it turns out that they cover in their graffiti not only gallery walls (see below).

Paramodel, Paramodelic graffiti on the roof garden of the Sawada Mansion
Paramodel, Plarail, 2007, Okazaki Mindscape Museum
photo: paramodel and Seiji Toyonaga


Kyoto-based artist Hiroe Saeki drawings have been allegedly so popular among collectors that they are bought as soon as they are finished. She draws with mechanical pencil 0.5mm on Kent paper. The lines are barely visible and juxtaposed with the broad whitness of the paper. The blank spaces, bird-and-floral motifs and the merging of few paper sheets in what looks like screen are said to br reminiscent of traditional japanese paintings. Thought upon closer examination one might notice some interwoven women accessories like ribbons, mirrors, high-heels or pins which definately belong to the modern world. Apparently this original fusion won the artist popularity. But even thought Saeki has been producing her meticulous drawings since 2003 only this year she has been recognized in her home country by receiving VOCA Encouragement Prize. She also participated in the group exhibition at NACT as one of the emerging Japanese artist. Saeki’s works are already part of MOMA, UBS and Deutsche Bank collections.

Hiroe Saeki, untitle 2007, pencil and ink on paper

Thursday, August 28, 2008

leading artists of Japanese contemporary art

Miwa Yanagi, Yuka, 2000, chromogenic print on plexiglass
This photo cames from the series titled My Grandmothers. The artist asked Japanese women in their 20s how would they imagine themselves in a 50 years. After hearing all stries she recreated them in a series of photograps. Here red hair Yuka speeds on the motorbike across the Golden bridge with her young lover. I saw this photo in the private collection of Mr. Obayashi. Anazing how bright Japanese women see they future.

Miwa Yanagi, Fortunetelling, 2005, video installation
Recently in Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography I saw Miwa video installation in which she experiment with slow motion. Somehow this work miss the impact of the photographs from similar series Fairy tales.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

gallery Q

Another nihon-ga artist whom I came across at Gallery Q. Very decorative paintings inspired by Jakuchu and Flemish painters which touch on one of social problems that troubles modern Japan - suicides of young people.

Ai Shinohara, Make children take to feeding, oil on cotton, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

West meets East

Ken Hamaguchi, Black, Sutra and the Rest, photo: Natsu Tanimoto
Western pin-ups girls juxtapose with Japanese kinbaku and Buddhist sutra by 'the' upcoming artist Ken Hamaguchi. It's been arguable though what's behind all these pictures. Condemnation, sexual desire, disguise pornograhy or maybe all?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

kimo kawaii

Sako Kojiama, I can be alone, silicon, 2005
Sako Kojima is a performer, sculptor and painter. She is a Japanese Oleg Kulik. The latter performed in the gallery as a dog chained next to a sign which read ‘dangerous’ biting those who ignored it. Kojima is a hamster. To learn how convincing she is see her performance ' Why I Became a Hamster' in the gallery in Lille at:
As a sculptor and painter she creates 'cute animals' which are scary at the same time.

Sako Kojiama, Present for my ear, silicon, 2005

Monday, August 18, 2008


The first post I decided to dedicated to four Japanese contemporary artists who do not try to copy European or American art but base their creative ideas on Japanese traditions and culture (in this case pop culture). These are all femal artists who in they own way criticize the image of women which prevails in japanese world of comics, advertising and toys. In western culture such attitude in art would be called feminism. Are these japanese feminists? never hear this term in Japan though.

Mika Kato, Gossamer, 2005, oil on canvas
Japan has been using dolls for religious and ceremonial purposes ever since Edo era (a. 1000 A.D.). Kato chose to paint them and their fantastic worlds. Her work process is very laborious as she at first sculpture the doll out of clay, dress it and only then paint it. This sophisticated way of work has something of the doll lover which is still a strong community in Japan. 'Buying a doll is like a marriage' says one of the doll lovers. They often treat their dolls as wives or children playing and talking to them.
Mahomi Kumikata, Crayon, 2004, acrylic on canvas
Takeshi Murakami art production factory - Kaikai Kiki artist. Her works are very personal and pshycological in which she explores such themes as abandonment, masochism, and depression. Her works are strongly influenced by manga and otaku culture.

Ryoko Suzuki
, Anikora-Seifuku 03 and 04, 2007,
chromogenic color print
Anikora is know in Japan as photo collaging in which faces of female celebrities are attached to the bodies of the nudes. In Ryoko series of the same title artist uses her own face collaging it onto the manga figurines bodies. And while manga and anime images are appealing to a lot of people in Japan and in many other countries a person with anime-like appearance look rather grotesque.

Ai Yamaguchi, Aokumo, 2003(exhibition view)
Ai Yamaguchi in her works creates a fantastic world of 9 and 10 year old girls who serve in the fictional courtesans house called Tage-no-ochaya (Teahouse-of-the-mountain pass).
Her style combines manga and the sensibility of ukiyo-e prints.

Ai Yamaguchi, Aokumo, 2003(detail)