One of the purposes of this blog is to spread information about what is happening in the art world. Unlike larger urban centres and unlike places in Canada that I am familiar with, news about exhibitions does not travel far in Kyushu or Yamaguchi. My friend introduced me to this teeny tiny artist-run gallery called the THM Gallery near Tobata Station in Kitakyushu. What a gem of a gallery! It is tucked away in a quaint house that has been renovated in an older neighbourhood and is beside one of the many ubiquitous ramen shops in the area. In North America or Europe, it would probably be near a popular tourist area or a key member or an artistic centre. You can see what it looks like on their website (in Japanese): http://whitelily.or.tv/thm/annai.html.
One of their up-and-coming shows features dolls and other figurines from private collections. European bisque dolls, dolls made by artists, Kewpie dolls that have been slightly redesigned, beaded doll clothes, carved figurines, and other figures will be on display from February 8 to February 26, 2013.
Advertisement for Artisanal Doll Show
If you are wondering about the Kewpie doll, remember that this is Asia. Kewpie dolls are extremely popular here. Large art museums have featured exhibitions on the artwork of their creator whose name I cannot recall right now. They are kawaii (cute but in a very specific, Japanese sense), and that is all that counts. They are often re-appropriated by artists and companies here.
On a personal note, my favourite figure in this ad is the sheep with personality. I was lucky enough to meet the artist (nicknamed Momo-chan) at another show in Yahata.
Anybody want to play dolls after having some ramen for lunch?
You saw the exhibition and that took all of five-ten minutes. You want to do something more with your time in the big city? How about a haircut by Yasu at the Nakamura Biyoshitsu (Salon)? More information can be found at his website: http://yasunakamura.com/. If you can read Japanese, he also has another website and blog that list his prices: http://www.nakamura-biyoushitu.com/.
He worked in New York for many years, speaks English, and imports dyes and some hair products from the United States. The occasional celebrity or circus performer might also pop in while you are there to get a trim. I kid you not.
After you have made an appointment and have seen the amazing art made by yours truly, walk for about one minute to the corner of the road. (That means you turn left when you leave the gallery’s building.) Are you feeling a little unsure about where you are going? Don’t worry! Can you see the modern white church called Daimyo Cross Garden at the end of the street? If so, you are going in the right direction.
Daimyo Cross Garden
The street turns left, so you should too. Turn onto the first street on your right. You should be able to see a small, retro beauty shop with a brick storefront almost immediately on your left. That is the Nakamura Biyoshitsu (Salon). The shop was originally run his mother-in-law, and he renovated the place with all kinds of beautiful antiques.
Blurry exterior of Nakamura Biyoshitsu
What else can you do? How about a pint in a British pub very close to the hair salon and on the same side of the street but in a larger, more modern building. (I have not been there, so I don’t know the hours or if it is any good or not. I think it has been there for a while, so that is a good sign.)
Three Kings British pub
Are you hungry? Well, if you want to try some falafel or hummus at a Sudanese restaurant called Kebabooz, you are going to have to walk to the other side of the block. Keep heading down the same street away from the gallery and the salon. Turn right at the first corner, and then turn right again so you are heading back to Z-side. By the way, Kebabooz does not sell alcohol, but you are allowed to bring some with you. That Lawson’s along the way is your last chance to pick up a beer to go with your shishkabob. They do sell other drinks as well as coffee and chai, just not alcohol.
Convenience store: Lawson
The restaurant is on the left side of the street but it is a little hard to find. Keep an eye out for a signboard on the street in front of what looks like a building filled with bars,
Kebabooz for Sudanese food in Japan
Kebabooz is on the first floor, so you don’t have to go upstairs. Just like with the gallery, you have to go further inside to find the door. Sana and the staff will greet you with big smiles! (When you look at the menu, tamiya are falafel balls. The smaller, cheaper choice is half of a pita. I recommend the ful (pronounced “fool”) if they have some.)
How do you get to the Konya 2023 gallery if the streets have no names? Well, you can use Google Maps or ask people (if you speak Japanese). Another helpful approach is to use a visual guide with pictures of landmarks that you can spy with your little eye along the way. I apologise for the poor picture quality. Just think of them as snaps in action…
1) Go to the area called Tenjin in Fukuoka City. 福岡市の天神という地方に行ってください。
2) Head towards Iwataya’s department store called Z-side. Z-サイド店の方に行って。
3) Go to the crosswalk behind the store (if the Starbucks in Z-side is regarded as the front). もしスターバックスはZ−サイド店の前だって、Z−サイドの後ろにある交差点に行って。
Crosswalk behind Z-Side in Tenjin
4) Cross the street and turn left. Walk towards the Apple Store and Zara, away from the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel. 道をわたる必要がある。ここでして左の方に行って、西鉄グランドホテルは後ろにしてください。ZARAとアップルストアーの方に歩いて。
5) You don’t have to walk far. Turn at what is possibly the second corner on your right. You should be able to see an Aveda banner and a bit of the shop on the second floor. (Sorry that the picture is a little blurry.) 多分2番目の角で右に曲がる。AVEDA店の看板が見れば、安心して。
Look up! See Aveda (2F)?
6) Do some window shopping on the way. わああ！ウィンドーショッピングのチャンスだぞ！
On your right is a coffee shop and a community radio station. 右側にコーヒーショップとラジオ放送する所が見える?
Coffee shop and radio station
7) Keep walking! Need some souvenirs? How about some from the AKB48 café and store? That is if you can fight your way through the crowds of juniour-high-school students and young men who should know better. お土産を買う必要がありますか？AKB48カフェーはいかがでしょうか？
Otaku heaven: AKB48 cafe & shop
8) You are very close now! Don’t worry! Keep walking until you see a parking lot beside a gyoza shop with what looks like a pig’s nose as its logo. もう近いです！もうちょっとますぐにして、左側にパーキングと餃子やさんが見えるでしょう。餃子屋さんのロゴは豚の鼻で、分かりやすいと思う。
9) The gallery is in the white apartment building beside the gyoza shop. Where is the entrance? Look for the round sign that has the name of an Italian restaurant. The gallery’s sign is a little hard to find because it is on a dark wall a little bit inside the building. ギャラリーは餃子屋さんんの隣の白いアパートにあります。入り口は？イタリア料理屋さんの丸い看板が見える？あそこは入り口です。Konya 2023の看板わもうちょっと奥に黒い壁にある。
Circular sign for Italian restaurant
Entrance to Konya 2023 Bldg
10) Now go inside and head to the back of the building towards the Italian restaurant and the many motorbikes that are parked near the entrance to the stairs. もっと奥にイタリア料理屋さんとバイクのパーキングの方に行って、階段があります。
Motorbikes & Stairs
11) Now just go up to the stairs to the second floor. The gallery is the first door on your left. Open the door and come on in! 2階に行って、階段の左側に一番目のドアです。どうそ！入ってください！
See? That wasn’t so difficult after all. We will be setting up in the morning of Monday, February 11, but you can still pop by to visit. I have to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I will not be in the gallery then. Elida Maria Matsumoto and the gallery staff will be there, so don’t worry! I will be there starting Valentine’s day. Don’t forget the chocolate! 簡単だったんでしょう？ 11日の朝はセットアップするつもりですけど、見に来てもいいです。12日と13日は違うところで仕事があるから私はいないんで、松本さんとスタッフがいるから見に行ってもいいです。バレンタインズディーから私は毎日行くつもりです。ぜひ、見に来てください！
Aunt Habiba said that anyone could develop wings. It was only a matter of concentration. The wings need not be visible like the birds’; invisible ones were just as good, and the earlier you started focusing on the flight, the better. But when I begged her to be more explicit, she became impatient and warned me that some wonderful things could not be taught. “you just keep alert, so as to capture the sizzling silk of the winged dream,” she said. But she also indicated that there were two prerequisites to growing wings: “the first is to feel encircled and the second is to believe that you can break the circle…A third condition…is that you stop bombarding people with questions. Observing is a good way to learn, too. Listening with stitched lips, wakeful eyes, and quivering ears can bring more magic into your life than all the hanging around you do on that terrace, spying on Venus or peeping at the new moon!”
In Japan, galleries and individuals send out postcards for their exhibitions. It is a good idea. The cards are not that large and not that expensive. These can be directly mailed to interested parties or available at galleries, cafes, and other shops for anybody to pick up and take home. Costs are usually covered by the artists.
This is the card for my upcoming show with Elida Maria in Daimyo, a trend-setting part of Fukuoka City. I love this gallery! Konya 2023 is an old apartment building where all the apartments are now used by galleries, artists, dance collectives, and other similar groups or individuals. Travel Front is the closest thing to an artist-run center like those I know in Canada. it is not a huge gallery, but many galleries in this area are small. It, however, does not have low ceilings or cater to hobbyists like some of the other places do. It is one of the few places I have seen that focus on a variety of contemporary art and design but do not focus exclusively on video or digital art. The people who run the gallery (and I think the operation of Konya 2023) are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. One apartment is also available as an inexpensive artist residence if you need somewhere to work. Highly recommended!
And because most streets do not have names in Japan, everything needs a map. Here goes!
Look for the gyoza shop in the building next door. Go to the back of the apartment building where the Italian cafe/bar is located and then go up the stairs. The gallery is right at the top of the stairs. Hope to see you there!
Promotional materials printed on postcards are called DM in Japanese, because they are used for direct marketing. I keep calling them postcards, and people keep correcting me. I constantly forget the name in Japanese, because I regard the objects as postcards and the purpose of those cards as direct marketing.
Until I figure out how to add photos in a gallery format rather than on a page, I thought I might appease some people’s curiosity about what has been happening in the past few years. As some of you know, one drawing in particular has been attracting a lot of attention from various circles.
Celebration is a drawing done primarily with coloured pencil over a watercolour base on a gessoed wooden panel. Here I have purposefully not cropped the picture so you can get a better idea of its size. For a piece that is more than two metres (approximately six feet) on each side, people are amazed to learn that it is done in coloured pencil. One painter in Chiba had to go nearer to get a closer look after I told him; he then pretended that he knew it from the start. It was originally done for a show featuring the work of five women who wanted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese (AFWJ) at their annual convention, hence the title. (More information about AFWJ is available at their website. I wanted something that would catch people’s eyes as they walked in and something that would announce that it was not an amateur show. This drawing did all that and more.
When people wanted to take a photo of themselves and their friends, where did they pose? In front of this drawing, Celebration. When RBR moved to their new location near the international school in Tokyo, they asked if they could hang this piece in their lobby. Because Joei Lau, one of the other artists in the show, worked there, I agreed. You can see my drawing if you look carefully at the photo of their entrance on the Japanese pages of their website and in the Japanese pdf of the gallery specifications. Any attention is good, right?
After the show at Space Galleria in Chiba, three of us had a mini version of the show at Sho in Chofu, Shimonoseki. The entire building was once the residence of a doctor and has been semi-preserved as a museum of sorts with a gallery space in the kura (separate building for storage). Because the building is old, the ceilings are low. The drawing would not fit the space in its original format; it had to be divided.
Celebration: Upper three panels
Celebration: Lower three panels
The six panels in a row filled the wall. I was no longer sure which I liked better, the new version or the original.
When I took it home, I decided that some art on the living-room walls would be a good idea. Once again Celebration was too large for one wall and had to be divided. After living with it on a daily basis, the new version grew on me and has become my favourite. When a friend wanted to see some pictures for possible use in a literary journal, I sent her photos of the new version. The top half appeared on the cover of Yomimono. Compliments started flying in. When an e-mail came from the Kyoto Art Festival asking me if I wanted to participate again in 2012, I knew which drawing I wanted to send.
Let’s back up a bit. I first learned about a group that displayed every year in the Kyoto Art Festival from a friend who had helped organize the show in Chiba. I religiously read the submission guidelines and sent them the smaller Summer Foliage in 2011 although I had really wanted to send all six panels of Celebration. Why? Celebration was once again too large! When I arrived at the Annex of the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, I was amazed at how large many of the other pieces were! My drawing was dwarfed by the others! Six panels would have easily fit on the walls. Also, the smaller drawing was much more realistic than most of the other artwork which was very serious and primarily in black and white. I vowed I would do things differently if I had another chance in 2012. I did not want to push my luck when I knew I would be breaking the rules so I sent only the top half in 2012.
What happened? Celebration won the Kyoto Broadcasting System award! Call me gobsmacked! After the show in Kyoto, I contacted the editor at Fukuoka Now to share the news since they had selected me as one artist of note a few years ago. I thought they might want to toot their own horn and hopefully use it as publicity for my upcoming group show in February. Once again I was surprised at what Fortune had in store for me: they wanted to do an interview. This wonderful drawing of mine and a photo of me are now glorified on page seven of the first issue of the new year. I am so excited!
I think it is not unusual for one piece to stand out in a portfolio. When the planets align, magic happens with a piece of artwork be it music, a novel, or a painting. We only hope that the magic can be replicated again and again.
Thank you for your patience! I admit that I have been putting this off for too long, so I resolved that I would bite the bullet and just do it. I am still not completely sure what this blog will be about but I have a better idea than before. I will try to feature my own artwork of course but I also want to discuss the importance of finding one’s own voice and going upstream against the flow of the crowd. My opinions might change from day to day, and that is fine with me. I also hope to express myself on a regular basis even if it is just the occasional sentence expressing a thought that popped into my head. Those thoughts might be verbal instead of visual but they are still important to me. They reflect who I am in many arenas. If possible, I hope that friends of mine who I respect as artists will also let me feature some of their work as well. Sometimes I will be verbose on all or some of these topics, and sometimes I will be as succinct as possible. Please join me as I peek into what it is like to be a recovering creative and artist in the 21st century in Japan and elsewhere.