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Contemporary Tradition in Japan

In Japan there appears to be a lack of distinction when it comes to past, present and future, unlike the West where there are clearly marked periods of time.

This concept is evident throughout the works of contemporary Japanese artists, who look to ancient traditions for inspiration across their works. 'Tradition' is not a relic of the past, but instead, it is very much alive and constantly evolving.

This week at MC Art, we are looking in to influential Japanese artists who are redefining traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

Aya Kawato

Aya Kawato, a 30-year-old Japanese artist, lives and works in Tokyo. On the verge of completing her Ph.D at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts, and working of the question of “Controlled and Uncontrolled,” Aya creates abstract paintings based upon a grid system. In writing her dissertation, she draws upon her own experiences as an artist. Her work combines her knowledge of traditional Japanese textile work, which she studied, and the latest advances in neuroscience. Influenced by the work of her father, a neurosurgeon, she strives to represent the world as it is perceived by the brain. The combination of traditional crafts and new scientific advances are the hallmark of Aya Kawato’s works, and she makes use of this knowledge to create geometrical works.

Yayoi Kumsama

With an astounding career spanning seven decades, Yayoi Kusama has explored the realms of painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, installation and environmental art, as well as literature, fashion and product design. Kusama has developed a highly distinctive style of polka-dotted art, which has since become her trademark. Such illusory visions are, for Kusama, the product of hallucinations she has experienced since childhood, in which the world seems to be covered in proliferating forms. Kusama has covered entire rooms with colorful dots and ‘infinity’ mirrors that endlessly reflect colorful light forms.

Fantasista Utamaro

A Graduate from Tama Art University in Textile Studies, Fantasista Utamaro was born in 1979. An accomplished and much sought after Manga (Japanese for Cartoon) artist, illustrator, textile and graphic designer, he is also an animation director and a member of the most cutting edge Manga creators Union "Mashcomix". His accomplishments include awards from Pictoplasma NYC Film Festival, Silhouette Film Festival Paris 2008 as well as AD&D LONDON 2008 finalist for NIKE BUKATSU. His commendable portfolio includes working with established brand names Nike and Diesel overseas appearances in the recent Kuala Lumpur Design Week in Malaysia May 2010.

Fantasista Utamaro references manga and traditional Japanese illustration, though he reimagines them in new and alternative materials. Some of the artist's best-known works have seen him layering acrylic paint and resin into blocks of carefully cut wood to produce bold, cartoon-like images.

Yuken Teruya

Yuken Teruya is a Japanese born New York based artist who creates artworks based on memories of his homeland Okinawa. His creations reflect on the untouched nature of his island, which he recreates in his paper bags’ constellations and paper forest series.

Teruya uses discarded shopping bags from the main retails brands of frenetic Manhattan, as well as Dollar bills, Monopoly bills, toilet paper rolls and McDonald’s bags.

The fascination toward nature -that has been present since the origins of Mankind- is expressed here through the use of discarded material, and this controversial choice creates a poetic yet twisted dynamic within the artworks.

It is interesting to note how the artist manages to unite oriental and occidental sensibilities: the art of paper making known as Washi was brought to Japan in 610 AD, and since then paper has been present in the everyday life in a multitude of uses from ikebana to origami, from furniture to toys.

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