An Artistic Afternoon on the Necropolis Railway

Makespace StudiosLast Saturday I went to the Makespace Studios Christmas Open Studio because a friend of mine, Hiroko Imada, now has a studio there. I wrote about her work before when she was at the Palace Wharf Studio, sadly now being knocked down to make way for luxury flats, but found her new studios even more interesting. Want to know about the Necropolis railway? Read on. Continue reading

Gekiga: manga’s dark and brooding shadow

GekigaEver wondered how cartoon books moved from being simple entertainment for kids to being a leading 21st century art form? Well, it began with the manga movement in Japan in the 1950’s, led by the creative genius of Osamu Tezuka, the ‘God of Manga’, creator of Astro Boy, and Machiko Hasegawa, who created the massively popular cartoon character Sazae-san. But there was a darker strand of manga too, one that was born in the harsh days that followed the Japanese defeat in the Second World War, known as gekiga. The story of gekiga is told in an exhibition of original magazines at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. Continue reading

Where manga-cute meets horror: Junko Mizuno

Junko MizunoCovent Garden is a home from home for me. There’s hardly a day goes by that I’m not down there for dance classes of one kind or another, or meeting up with friends for dinner. So when I heard that manga graphic novelist Junko Mizuno would be exhibiting at the Atomica Gallery in Short’s Gardens, it was the work of a moment to pop in to take a look. After all, the gallery is right next to my hairdressers. Continue reading

Hokusai’s Great Wave – a view from the souvenir shop

Hokusai Great Wave souvenir apron I was in the British Museum the other day (as I often am) and, as I was passing the shop in the great court, a shopping bag printed with Hokusai’s Great Wave caught my eye. It made me wonder about the perspective people get who don’t climb the stairs (or take the hidden lift) to the fifth floor to see the Japanese collection, but just come across images in the shop. So I went to see what else was on offer. And got a bit of a shock. Continue reading

A trip to Cambridge with the Japan Society

17th c illustrated scroll, Cambridge University Library Summer’s here, the sun’s shining and what better way to enjoy it than with a nice day out with the Japan Society? Yesterday I joined a small group of members on a trip to Cambridge for a look behind the scenes at the Japanese print collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Japanese Department at Cambridge University Library, plus a stroll around the historic streets, and a delicious lunch at Fitzbillies. Continue reading

Puzzled by Tetsuya Noda at the British Museum

Tetsuya NodaThe British Museum keeps its permanent collection of Japanese art in rooms 92-94, up on the fifth floor at the back (access via the North stairs). It’s permanent in the sense that it’s not a limited-time special exhibition, but it’s not set in stone; it changes slowly, particularly with the passing of the seasons, so it’s always worth going back to see the latest offering. My friend Yannick, who works there as a volunteer tour guide, tips me off when there’s something new, and he’s the one who told me about the Tetsuya Noda exhibition.  Continue reading

Henry Sotheran Japanese Prints

Henry Southeran Japanese PrintsWhen we think of Japanese prints it’s usually ukiyo-e, traditional ‘floating world’ woodblock prints of actors and kimono-clad beauties, that come to mind. But Henry Sotheran’s current show of twentieth century Japanese prints includes not just traditionally-made woodblock prints of flowers and landscapes, but Studio Ghibli storyboards and hand drawn anime and manga cels as well. They’re for sale, and they’re pretty reasonably priced. Continue reading

Utamaro at Two Temple Place

Utamaro Chushingura

Two Temple Place is a gothic-revival mansion built by William Waldorf Astor in 1892. At the time Astor was the richest man in Europe and his architect, John Loughborough Pearson, one of the foremost neo-Gothic architects of the late nineteenth-century, was instructed to spare no expense. It’s only open to the public when there’s a special exhibition on, as there is at the moment – Discoveries, featuring works from ten Cambridge museums and galleries. Continue reading

Wood Engravings at the Bankside Gallery

Keisei Kobayashi - Eden 08B

Normally I wouldn’t write about an exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers. Not because I don’t like them, but because they fail the test of this blog of having some sort of Japanese connection. But guess what? This year, for their annual exhibition at the Bankside Gallery, they’ve joined forces with the Kyoto Print Exhibition Executive Committee and included ten Japanese artists in their show. I found the contrast between the British and Japanese artists fascinating. Continue reading

Love in Japanese prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Yûgao

The night of longing: Love and desire in Japanese Prints exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is billed as complementing the shunga exhibition at the British Museum, but for my money this exhibition hits the mark that the BM’s shunga misses. Why? Because it ‘presents a more complex yearning that embraces love and the consequences of love, rather than simply desire and its gratification’, as the introduction to the exhibition says. In other words, it’s not concentrating on just one, erotic, aspect of love but exploring the full spectrum, and sharing some amazing works of art in the process. Continue reading