In my search for Japanese artists showing in London it’s always exciting to come across an exhibition at one of the big west end galleries. So you can imagine how I felt when I discovered that Annely Juda Fine Art were showing not one but two Japanese artists. Their work forms a fascinating contrast: Yoshishige Saito is an abstract sculptor in the Constructivist mould while Taku Aramasa is a photographer with a special method of printing his work.
Taku Aramasa was born in Tokyo in 1936 and spent his childhood in Japan-dominated Manchuria and later as a refugee in north-eastern China. Separated from his parents, he only met them in 1980, by which time he had a successful career as a graphic artist and photographer. His current show, titled Horizon, the first solo exhibition of his work in Europe, result from the journeys Aramasa has made to remote parts of Japan since the late 1990s.
Recently, Aramasa has developed a unique method of printing, called OROgraphy, in which he scans a negative to create a digital image, prints it onto clear film with an inkjet printer and applies gold leaf.
The effect is beautiful, given the works a rich gold sheen – I’m only sorry I can’t do this justice in photos, but the reflective surface makes photography difficult.
Of course, I was pleased to see his photographs of cherry blossom.
Yoshishige Saito was born in Tokyo in 1904 and had his first encounter with Russian Constructivism at the age of sixteen, when they exhibited in Tokyo for the first time. During the second world war he made works from broken plywood, the only material he could get, but they were all destroyed in the firebombing towards the end of the war.
In the years of poverty after the war Saito was reduced to working as a house painter, but his first solo exhibition at the Tokyo Gallery in 1958 put his career back on track and he has since exhibited all over the world, including at the Venice Biennale. Saito died in 2001 aged ninety-seven.
The works in this exhibition date from the 80s and 90s and are made from lacquered wood. (I know, I thought they were metal too). They are mainly stark black pieces, enlivened by the occasional work in red or white.
Saito’s work is not what we normally expect from Japanese artists; a timely reminder that avant guardism reached out to the east as well.
The Annely Juda Gallery is in Dering St, just off Oxford St. The exhibition continues until 26th April and the gallery is open Monday to Friday 10 am to 6 pm, Saturdays 11 am to 5 pm.