One of my favorite ways to spend a weekend here in Tokyo is to visit some of the hundreds (thousands really) of art galleries in the city, as well as the many graduation exhibitions of the major art universities. Recently I have run into the same artist twice, Shunsuke Taira (平俊介). First at the graduation exhibition at the Tokyo University of the Arts, and yesterday at the Gallery MoMo Projects in Roppongi. Some of the paintings are industrial reinterpretations of buildings in and around Asakusa. Can you spot which ones? If I was an art collector I would snap all of his work up right now.
The Gallery Moma will have the exhibition until March 8th.
If you are in Tokyo and interested in Japanese calligraphy, shodo, you might want to and see the 54th annual Nihon Shosakuin exhibition on the second floor of the National Art Center in Roppongi. The exhibition is nothing less than massive, it would take a day or two to just read all of the beautiful calligraphy that is on display. The exhibition runs until the 17th of February, 13:30. Calligraphy came to Japan with the introduction of writing from China and as usual they have made it into a beloved national art form. Almost all schools in Japan teach calligraphy to their students and there are many school clubs dedicated to the subject. Japanese still take great pride in beautiful handwriting and a lot of people keep the tradition of writing with ink and brush alive.
One of the more interesting traditions involving calligraphy is the kakizome (書き初め), the first writing of the new year. In the old days people would write a poem on the the first day of the new year, using ink made from the first water drawn from the well. These days though, many people settle on writing characters that they like or find promising for the new years. I have even seen sets of ink, brushes and paper set out in bars and night clubs in the first few days of the year. It is interesting to see young and old club goers and bar-hoppers sit down and concentrate on this ancient art before getting back on the dance floor or karaoke machine!
Even though this is an ancient art form there are still trends and movements in the styles presented by the different artists, and to my untrained eye the writing looked more subdued than the wild sprawling writing I saw a lot of when I visited the exhibition in 2010.
If you are in Tokyo and need to see something new I’d recommend visiting the annual Japan Media Arts Festival exhibition held in Roppongi’s National Art Center. This year is the 17th festival, that was started to promote outstanding works in the categories of Art, Entertainment, Animation and Manga. 4347 entries from 84 countries competed for cash prices and a chance to exhibit here in Tokyo. Naturally the entries are Japan-heavy but there are a few international entries as well. This year’s show was slightly different from last year’s, in that the exhibition room was bright and airy compared to the darker space created last year. My favorites was a little fly held aloft by sound beams and manipulated by a hand held light, the Lapillus Bug, as well as a fantastically beautiful video game, “rain“. There were lots of other cool stuff as well,too many to mention here, but the official website has a lot of info and links.
If you haven’t already seen it, the MACHINE-Z robot band was also a pretty cool entry that unfortunately failed to woo any of the resident judges.
Of all the artists exhibiting at this year’s graduate show at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Yasuhiro Asai (浅井保宏) was my favorite among the painters. I found his dark and action filled oil paintings to show both his imagination and his skill, which for me is very important in young artists. I foresee a great future for this artist, born in 1989 here in Tokyo.