We travelled way into the quiet suburbs of Kyoto. Found our way into the large concrete buildings which housed the graduation show at Kyoto City University of Arts. Slowly worked our way from the ground floor to the top while peaking into doors to discover what art there was. The first room was found only by the accident of going into the wrong building. In a set of connected rooms by the way, we discovered that people were still painting. This was the ‘INTERIM SHOW’. Meaning that these were the students who were only halfway through their MA programme. The canvases were large, still pungent and wet and with great image, colour and aesthetic. Of those approximately 7-8 students I want to look at 2 artists for the contrasts in the kind of imagery being made in Japan now. Yukiko Miyake’s paintings seemed to spring from elements of the country’s manga and anime aesthetic but interestingly she mentioned hardly reading or viewing these media. Miyake’s images reminded us of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away in its large oblong-eyed characters with wispy auras. Perhaps this aesthetic that we attributed solely to anime and manga is more rooted in Japan’s traditional cultures. This must be true as ‘ART’ doesn’t spring fully formed from nowhere.
Still from Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke
This brings me to a question constantly on my mind whenever it comes to art-making: How can the process and aesthetic of making an image reflect essences of a culture. Miyake’s approach shows me that perhaps it should not be constructed or forced but intuitively tapped into so that the resulting images seem to be effortless reflections of culture and context. What would an effortless reflection of Jamaican culture in a painting look like? From the walls of our national art institutions to our commercial galleries, is there work that has succeeded in doing this?
Work by Sekiguchi
In order to get to Miyake’s room however, we had to pass what looked like the scene of a crime. What crime that might be I am not sure but there was a sense that an expressionist painting had exploded and was being contained in this area. The artist, Sekiguchi, brought us into his process. The work indicated a conceptual engagement with the fundamentals of Painting. As strips of colour dangled from the ceiling, landed on canvases and came to rest on the floor. Many paintings were indistinguishable from the walls and floors and then the paintings only became apart of the total space. The room was equally as important as the canvases and the canvases were clearly only arrived at from the work that took place in this space. In local painting exhibitions how do you feel about seeing a space that ‘makes’ the paintings and not vice-versa?