Seen in Higashi-Nakano.
Living in Tokyo, not only the most populous metropolitan area on Earth but the biggest in the entire history of the planet, it’s easy to forget how rapid the speed of development here has been.
I still find it hard to fathom, whenever I’m reminded that only a few decades ago the urban landscape here was so very different. In fact as recently as 50 years ago one could find large areas of green, and even rice fields, in the middle of the city.
The breakneck speed of construction and development which began in the mid 1940’s continues to this day, although now consists mostly of destruction and replacement of old buildings rather than the urban encroachment into open land which came before.
An intriguing series of “upskirt” advertisements appeared around Tokyo earlier this year.
Bizarre detour in the underground tunnels near Ginza Station.
First thought was it might be designed to prevent people bumping their heads on the low ceiling as they walk on that side of the passageway.
The actual effect is that it simply discourages people from walking there at all – which I guess achieves the desired result, but in a very expensive and indirect way.
But, given that numerous similar “low ceiling” spots around Tokyo simply use striped cushions to prevent headsmack injury, I do wonder if it serves another purpose?
In Japan, not unlike the rest of the world, one finds an enormous amount of unoriginal and rather bland contemporary photography. Week after week exhibitions are held of generic, derivative work, and one can be hard-pressed to tell any of these photographers apart, or even remember any of the works minutes after walking out of the gallery.
The influence of a few of the more highly-regarded names in Japanese photography is clearly one factor at work. More often than not, exhibitions seem like disappointingly dull replicas of styles made popular by the likes of Moriyama Daido, Ninagawa Mika, Kawauchi Rinko, Sugimoto Hiroshi, Yanagi Miwa and a handful of other big names.
There is also a quite mystifying trend of “snapshot artists”, people whose work resembles a random collection of everyday subjects and unmemorable moments, thrown together with no apparent continuity, theme, intended idea, meaning or even technical quality.
Yet, among this vast ocean of mediocrity, some incredibly original and powerful work occasionally appears. In the coming months I will feature a number of such artists and photographers.
One name recently gaining more coverage and attention is that of Matsuhara Akitoshi, from Japan’s traditional capital, Kyoto. I first came across his work in 2011, at an exhibition of his (then) most recent work, and have followed his progress since, during which time he has exhibited in various solo and group exhibitions, nationally and internationally, and been presented numerous prizes and awards.
From a distance, the often large-scale works appear to have a simple form and calm tranquility which belie the remarkably vibrant intricacy and dynamic energy which they exude as one approaches closer. This apparent contradiction is intimately connected to the ideas which influence Matsuhara’s practice, and which he continues to pursue – a hybrid of science, spirituality and wonder.
I spoke to him recently to discuss aspects of his thinking and technique, and to share some insights into the process behind his work.
In the middle of last year I spoke with British artist Carl Randall about his extraordinary portraits of modern Japan. Randall recently returned to the UK and has been receiving tremendous interest and success with his works since that time.
He is currently presenting a solo exhibition in London, ‘Tokyo Portraits’, featuring many paintings which are previously unseen in the UK. I spoke with him about this work, and expanded upon some of the issues we discussed in our previous interview, describing many of his themes and techniques in great detail. Follow the link below.
The exhibition, at The Daiwa Anglo Japanese Foundation, runs from January 16 – March 12.