Minako Nishiyama’s installation of posters highlights the darker side of kawaii. Her posters of cute fantasy girls, with an associated telephone number, recall the telephone ‘dating’ clubs of the 1980s that were thought to encourage schoolgirl prostitution. When Minako originally pasted these posters in the streets of Japan the telephone number was linked to pink telephone booth in an associated gallery so that the men phoning in became part of the installation.
Chika Ohgi’s ‘Transient petals’ considers a more traditional side of kawaii that celebrates the small, weak and transient. Her beautiful petals made of kozo paper are based on cherry blossom and its short fleeting existence before the petals are blown away on the wind.
Aya Kametani notes that many small Japanese objects, such as bonsai trees, suggest that there is a wider world hidden within them. She has used this fantasy idea to produce worlds embedded on the backs of rams where you can see tiny people and even the microclimate they shelter beneath.
These few examples show that Kawaii contains a host of complementing yet often contradictory ideas. The exhibition shows the work of 16 artists and runs until 11 December at the James Hockey Gallery, Farnham, and will move to the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in 2016. It is well worth a visit.