Marianne North, Victorian Explorer

Marianne North in Ceylonargaret_Cameron

One of the nice things about Kew Gardens is how you can go on discovering new things there however often you go. I must have walked past the Marianne North Gallery dozens of times without giving it a second thought until I discovered one day who Marianne North actually was and what a fascinating life she led, travelling the world in search of unknown flowers and plants and bringing them back to the UK. Between 1871 and 1885 she went to America, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Java, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles, Chile and, of course, Japan. Continue reading

The dancing hens of Ito Jakuchu at Asia House

Ito Jakuchu

There’s a fabulous exhibition on at Asia House this week and I really think you should find the time to go and see it soon as it’s only on for five days, ending this Saturday. It’s a show of works by Ito Jakuchu who was born in Kyoto nearly three hundred years ago. Jakuchu specialised in paintings of domestic animals, particularly chickens, and there are plenty of them on show at Asia House, painted with a flair and simplicity of line that is breathtaking. Continue reading

When Cicadas Cry in Kentish Town

Yuji Oki

Yuji Oki is a artist who was born in Japan in 1949 and now lives and works in London. I’d like to tell you more about him but there’s a surprising lack of information on the net. Even the gallery that represents him, the Beardsmore Gallery in Kentish Town, doesn’t give away much in the catalogue of his most recent exhibition; just a bare list of four dates telling us where he studied and that he once won a prize for painting. A bit of a challenge, then. But at least I can show you what his art is like. Continue reading

Butterflies, flowers and kimonos – the paintings of Kyosuke Tchinai

Kyosuke Tchinai

The new year has begun in earnest; it’s back to work all round and I’ve been back on the art gallery trail, visiting odd corners of London to find tucked-away galleries you might never know were there. Today’s gallery is West End rather than East End – beyond the farthest corner of Grosvenor Square, almost to Park Lane, there’s a little hidden mews called Lees Place, where the Elena Shchukina gallery is showing richly coloured intricate paintings from Kyosuke Tchinai. Continue reading

Hideyuki Sobue

Hideyuki SobueWith the cold snap we’ve got this week it feels like autumn is on the way out, so it may be a good moment to share with you Hideyuki Sobue’s pictures which are currently on display at the Daiwa Foundation. They’re all portraits and each one is paired with a picture of fallen leaves.  Continue reading

The Dandans Collective

Kotaro Isobe Biotype 1 (Tree Frog)I’ve been to see the Dandans Collective show at Browse & Darby and absolutely loved it. Judging by the amount of red dots next to the pictures on the first day of opening, I’m not the only one. I wish I could show you all of them, but there were eighteen artists showing in an exhibition spread over three floors, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to make do with my personal choice of the best. Continue reading

Yayoi Kusama: White Infinity Nets

Yayoi Kusama White Infinity Nets

I’ve blogged about Yayoi Kusama’s remarkable paintings and sculptures several times before so I reckoned I knew what to expect – exuberant colours, psychedelic spots and giant pop-art flower sculptures. But her latest show at the Victoria Miro Gallery is very different – it’s completely monochrome and the focus is not spots but nets. Continue reading

New Japanese Artists at the Griffin Gallery

Griffin Gallery - Makiko Satake

The Griffin Gallery is a new exhibition space in the Studio Building in West London with sixty metres of white wall space and an adjoining tea room. I went there this week to take a look at their latest show, featuring three new Japanese artists, the winner and runners-up of the 2012 Japanese Liquitex Art Prize. Continue reading

Van Gogh and Japan

Van Gogh Twelve SunflowersVincent Van Gogh loved Japan – and Japan loves Van Gogh. A new book, The Sunflowers are Mine by Martin Bailey, published this week, has some intriguing insights into both sides of the love affair, from Van Gogh’s admiration for Japanese prints to the sad fate of one of his sunflower pictures, bought by a Japanese collector. Continue reading

Women of the Pleasure Quarters at the British Museum

Women of the Pleasure QuartersThe British Museum has a new small exhibition in Room 3 – the one on the right of the main entrance as you go in. It’s a screen painted by Toyoharu Utamaro depicting the courtesans of the Kado-Tamaya (The Jewel House on the Corner) waiting for customers. If you want to know what the life of a courtesan in eighteen century Japan was like, this is a good place to find out. Continue reading