It’s no secret that I have a passion for Japan and Japanese culture. I am lucky in that nearby to me, there is an excellent art facility called the West Yorkshire Print Workshop (WYPW). They run courses throughout the various aspects of printmaking and also have gallery space where they show different exhibitions throughout the year. This summer they have an exhibition on Japan. So I absolutely had to go and see this and I was so glad that I did. (I apologise for the quality of some of the images).
The artists responded to the theme in various different ways. Some of the artwork produced was going back into the traditional legends, myths and fables as seen in this wonderful print above.
Some of the artwork was pared back, beautifully simple but arresting all the same. The colours evoked a feeling of peace and serenity. Japan has an affinity and respect for the natural world this is tied in with Shintoism and could be seen in the response that some artists chose to represent this natural world with prints of water, trees and animals.
It is hard to choose a favourite print but if I had to it would be the one of the lone businessman with the briefcase walking through a Tokyo street. I loved how in just one simple scene, this evokes exactly the background scene of Japan that is often portrayed in the Japanese fiction that I’ve read. Here we see an essence of busyness and modernity presented by the figure of the businessman with the suitcase which is then juxtaposed within the setting of the street itself with the traditional older shops and older lighting. It is a fusion of the old and the new that incapsulates perfectly what I imagine represents Japan.
Another part of the exhibition displayed a series of tenugui which are thin cotton Japanese hand towels. They also serve a variety of other functions and are used as headbands, decorations or as souvenirs and this is because they are also extremely decorative. Tenugui in particular are a great symbol of the importance of the design aesthetic in Japan, in that what we might take for granted as a plain tea towel to dry dishes with, they see as having a multipurpose function. The tenugui also highlights the importance in Japanese design of something functional that is also aesthetically pleasing.
Overall, this was a very interesting exhibition and it’s only on until September, so if you’re in the area, I would recommend that you visit. Details can be found at WYPW website.