Monday 25 September 2017 6:45pm

The Swedenborg Society
20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

For a PDF map of the venue please click here

Free – booking recommended
Book here

One of the regulars of the legendary alternative manga monthly Garo in the magazine’s heyday of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Susumu Katsumata (1943-2007) has the curious distinction of having risen within the world of political cartooning and literary comics while studying toward a graduate degree in nuclear physics in Tokyo.

While best known for his stories about life and myth in the Japanese countryside, Katsumata also drew frequently about political and social issues since the mid 1960s, including numerous satirical strips about nuclear arms and the influence of big science within Japanese universities. After the anti-nuclear power movement gelled in Japan in the late 70s, Katsumata began illustrating critical science books about the history and dangers of nuclear power. He also drew frequent humor strips on related topics, as well as moving stories about the “nuclear gypsies” who maintained Japan’s nuclear plants under oppressive work conditions.

This talk will survey Katsumata’s work on the subject of nuclear power, which is the largest, most diverse, and most trenchant such oeuvre in Japanese visual art prior to the 2011 meltdowns in Fukushima. The talk will serve as a preview of two forthcoming publications, a collection of Katsumata’s manga titled Fukushima Devil Fish (SISJAC and Breakdown Press) and a history of antinuclear thought, protest, and cartooning in Japan around Katsumata’s career, titled No Nukes for Dinner: How One Japanese Cartoonist and His Country Learned to Distrust the Atom (publisher TBD).

Ryan Holmberg is an Academic Associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture. As a freelance art historian and critic, he is a frequent contributor to The Comics Journal, Artforum International, and Art in America. As an editor and translator of manga, he has worked with Breakdown Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Retrofit Comics, PictureBox Inc, and New York Review Comics. He is also the author of Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964–1973 (Center for Book Arts, 2010) and No Nukes for Dinner: How One Japanese Cartoonist and His Country Learned to Distrust the Atom (forthcoming).

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email events@japansociety.org.uk.

In association with:

sisjac-75

 

 


©The Japan Art Association / Sankei Shimbun

 

Monday 25 September 2017                         8.30 – 9.45am

Academicians’ Room
Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
Piccadilly,
London W1J 0BD

Free of charge
Japan Society members and a guest

Book here

In conjunction with the Japan Art Association and October Gallery, we are delighted to invite members to an exclusive arts event to celebrate the recent announcement of the 2017 recipients of the Praemium Imperiale.

The 2017 Sculpture laureate is the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, whose work is currently showing in the Academicians’ Room of the Royal Academy of Arts. We are very fortunate to be able to offer a few places to a short talk by Gerard Houghton, Director of Special Projects at October Gallery, who has worked closely with El Anatsui since 1991 and is particularly knowledgeable about the artist’s activities in Japan.

Every year, The Japan Art Association gives the Praemium Imperiale awards to artists in five different categories (Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film) in recognition of their international impact in their chosen field. This year’s recipients were announced on 12 September. Next year will see the Praemium Imperiale celebrate its 30th anniversary and the Royal Academy of Arts, their 250th anniversary.

El Anatsui’s complex artwork defies traditional categories. He is well known for malleable sculptures created from discarded metal, such as cassava graters or liquor bottle tops. Often large in scale, their size and luminous nature can render them immersive. His transformation of these found materials enhances their significance and imbues them with a certain dignity – something he deeply values. His long held opinion is that “art is something that grows from the environment, it is not something you have to create.” Born in Ghana, he moved to Nigeria in 1975, where he is based today. He has been collected by major international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou and the Smithsonian Institution, among many others. In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. He was the subject of large-scale retrospective in Japan that travelled to several venues (2010-11). In 2015, a major work was included in the exhibition The Contemporary 2: Who Interprets the World? at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. He is the first Ghanaian recipient of the Praemium Imperiale.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email events@japansociety.org.uk.

In association with:

 

Hokusai Beyond The Great Wave
edited by Timothy Clark
Thames and Hudson and The British Museum (2017)
ISBN-13: 978-0500094068

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi

It is very rare for a book on a single artist to make the bestseller list as this did. Indeed it was the top bestseller in one list that I saw and the book had to be reprinted.

Anyone who managed to visit the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum this summer must have been impressed by Hokusai’s genius as a painter and print artist. They will find in this volume with its wealth of colour illustrations and the scholarly essays that accompany them a valuable reminder of what they saw as well as insights into Hokusai’s life and work. For those who failed to get tickets or missed the exhibition this volume, while no substitute for the exhibition itself, will give them a taste of what they missed. A copy should be in the library of anyone with an interest in Japanese art.

The volume does not pretend to be a catalogue of all Hokusai’s works. As he produced around 3000 colour prints, many hundreds of paintings, and numerous sketches in his long life, to list and reproduce them all would require many volumes, but the selection from his late career presented in this volume is an excellent introduction to Hokusai’s art and the bibliography points to other works on Hokusai that the student can consult.

Tim Clark, the editor and British Museum curator in his essay ‘Late Hokusai backwards’ begins: “Hokusai believed that the older he got the better his art became”. Thirty-two paintings produced when he was 88 have survived and twelve have been preserved from his ninetieth and final year. As the name which he adopted in later life Gakyō rōjin (‘picture-mad old man’ if literally translated) implies he could not stop drawing and painting. Sadly he did not manage to live to 100 when he hoped to have achieved ‘a divine state’ in his art.

Self-portrait, aged eighty-three Drawing in a letter, ink on paper  1842 National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, RMV3513-1496


Self-portrait, aged eighty-three
Drawing in a letter, ink on paper
1842
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, RMV3513-1496

 

Clark reminds us that Hokusai in middle age had performed several tremendous feats of outdoor performance art such as painting gigantic head-and-shoulder images of Daruma. Hokusai had a great sense of the ridiculous and his published collections of humorous sketches (Hokusai manga) are a high point in the long tradition of satirical drawing first manifest in the medieval Chōjū jinbutsu giga depiction of animals behaving like human beings.

Hokusai was extraordinarily productive during his long life. He wrote stories and poems and illustrated many books. While conscious of his own genius and worth (the famous novelist Kyokutei Bakin noted that Hokusai’s fees were ‘unusually high’) knew that in producing woodblock prints he had to work closely with the various craftsmen involved in the production process.

Hokusai was an innovator. From his early twenties he adopted elements of European perspective adding depth to his depictions of the sea and mountains. He had great imagination and an exceptional eye for the beauties of the natural world. Perhaps above all it was his instinct for colour and composition, which made him such an exceptionally great artist. He seemed to know instinctively how to compose a picture to make maximum impact on the viewer.

These were probably the principal reasons why once Japanese prints began to reach Europe Hokusai became the focus of interest of French painters and to have such an important influence on the French impressionists. Indeed Hokusai in the nineteenth century perhaps because woodblock prints were so easily transportable and plentiful came to be seen in the West as Japan’s greatest painter. In traditional Japanese art circles in the late nineteenth he was not accorded the same recognition although he did many hanging scroll paintings of landscapes and beauties in the Japanese classical tradition. His fame abroad was based on woodblock prints, which in snobbish Japanese eyes were seen as rather vulgar.

His genius and his fame as one of the greatest artists in the world are now duly recognized in Japan as in the rest of the world.

Here as an indication of the delights of this volume are four examples of the works that are illustrated.

 

 Chōshi in Sōshū province, from the series A Thousand Pictures of the Sea (Chie no umi) Colour woodblock print About 1833 Chiba City Museum of Art

Chōshi in Sōshū province, from the series A Thousand Pictures of the Sea (Chie no umi)
Colour woodblock print
About 1833
Chiba City Museum of Art

 

 Dragon rising above Mt Fuji  Hanging scroll, ink and slight colour on silk 11th (or 23rd) day, first month, 1849 Hokusaikan, Obuse

Dragon rising above Mt Fuji
Hanging scroll, ink and slight colour on silk
11th (or 23rd) day, first month, 1849
Hokusaikan, Obuse

 

 Under the Wave off Kanagawa (called ‘The Great Wave’), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei) Colour woodblock print About 1831 British Museum

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (called ‘The Great Wave’), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei)
Colour woodblock print
About 1831
British Museum

 

Ducks in flowing water Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk 1847 British Museum

Ducks in flowing water
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk
1847
British Museum

 

lost japan Lost Japan by Alex Kerr Penguin (2015) ISBN-10: 0141979747 Review by Harry Martin

Since its original publication in 1993, Lost Japan by Alex Kerr has stood within the ranks of the more revelatory and nuanced works in a long line of publications unpicking the seeming exoticism and essential unfamiliarity of Japanese history and culture. From the very first page readers find themselves being guided through the author’s extraordinary Japanese journey through vivid accounts of traditional Japanese life, from the dramatic landscape of Shikoku to the dressing rooms of Tokyo’s most exclusive theatres and tea houses. The narrative throughout expresses not only the author’s passion, but also a personal lament for what he perceives as the deterioration and loss of Japan’s native traditions, comprising an ardent and heartfelt plea to Japanese readers to sit up and take pride in their national heritage before it is gone forever.

The somewhat esoteric and obscure themes explored by this connoisseur of Japanese culture are enlightening and novel, featuring subjects such as traditional thatching (a subject on which had a great deal of first-hand experience having twice rethatched the kayabuki roof of his two-hundred-year-old Japanese house in the Iya Valley), kabuki rituals and a brief history of the exquisite world of Japanese calligraphy and antiques. Kerr’s passionate, animated writing style lifts these weighty subjects off the page and into the reader’s imagination, bringing to life vivid scenes from a past world. Although the primary focus of the author is very much on the past, he does not neglect modern Japan, and presents sobering and insightful accounts of contemporary Japanese politics, economy and architecture to set the scene in a much wider context.

Like many who have spent long periods in Japan, Kerr has a distinct conflict of emotions regarding the country he now calls home, and his writing frequently lays this bare. On the one hand he expresses impassioned admiration and praise for the native culture, while on the other he suggests a thinly veiled sense of disapproval for what he sees as the modern Japanese disregard for their past. This reprimand sets the tenor of the book and seems to be directed at a largely apathetic urban Japanese audience which the author feels needs reminding of its nation’s origins. As acknowledged by the author in his prelude, Lost Japan was intended for the Japanese reader (it was first published as Utsukushiki nihon no zanzō, Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan), with the translation and publication for western audiences somewhat of an afterthought; as a non-Japanese reader I did indeed feel a little outside of his focus at times, but nevertheless found the themes and subject matter stimulating and compelling.

With Penguin’s re-release of Lost Japan there is now the opportunity for a new generation of Japan enthusiasts to wander through this curious and complex mixture of biography and history. This nostalgic and evocative world is brought to life by Kerr’s expressive writing, which issues a clear and heart-felt call for the preservation of the fading jewels of Japanese culture. His stories evoke a vivid sense of a disappearing past which is likely to capture the imagination of any reader and inspire a desire to (re)visit and read further into this fascinating culture and history.

 

 
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