Monday, 24 June 2013

Souzou: Outsider art from Japan

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection celebrates the work of 46 self-taught artists living and working in social welfare facilities in Japan. Souzou means both creation and imagination in Japanese. I was most interested in the textile art but was also fascinated by some of the paintings. Noriko Tanaka’s ordered running stitches showed life and movement as did Toyo Hagino’s sewn geometrical shapes, while Yumiko Kawai’s three-dimensional breast-like shapes were intricate constructions. Other textile artists included Satoshi Morita who uses other people’s discarded thread ends to embellish blankets and Norie Shukumatani who couches threads to produce stylized images. As well as the textiles I found Norimitsu Kokubo’s fictional cityscapes fascinating. Each street and building is carefully rendered like a three-dimensional map and because they are so detailed I was amazed to find that the cities are fictional and not places that he has visited. One vast, densely worked, cityscape he is currently drawing is about 2 m high and will be 10 m long when it is finished. I also found Kenichi Yamazaki’s engineering drawings, incorporating points made by a compass, interesting, probably because they reminded me of lace prickings. Shingo Ikeda’s notebooks full of densely written figures and notes about subway journeys probably best summed up the art in the exhibition, it was all compulsive, dense and repetitive, and slightly uncomfortable because of that, but nevertheless fascinatingly beautiful.

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