WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts 6 July – 22 October 2023 Japan House London 101-111 Kensington High Street London W8 5SA
Discover the vibrancy and variety of Japanese graphic arts at WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts. Curated by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, the exhibition presents the work of 60 of Japan’s most significant graphic artists today, introducing many of them to the UK for the first time. An anthology of styles and stories, bridging the worlds of fine art, commercial illustration and counterculture, WAVEoffers UK audiences a rare opportunity to fully experience the diversity of expression within Japanese graphic arts.
The exhibition at Japan House London is inspired by WAVE, an annual exhibition that started in 2018 in Tokyo. Also curated by Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, the WAVE exhibition in Tokyo showcases 100 of Japan’s leading illustrators, graphic and contemporary artists. Of the 60 artists featured in the Japan House London iteration, five emerging artists are being presented as part of the WAVE touring exhibition for the first time: Utsunomiya Nao, Kakuda Mayu, Katō Takaaki, Nakajima Yūta and Yano Keiji.
‘The present and the future of the creative essence of Japanese media art, unbound by genre or generation – welcome to the WAVE exhibition.’ – Co-curator Takahashi Kintarō
Presenting an eclectic assembly of artists WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts presents the work of artists who have emerged during multiple waves in the history of Japanese print culture since the late 20th century – their ages ranging from early twenties to late eighties. Tanaami Keiichi (b.1936) is known for his colourful images inspired by war, dreams and pop culture and has been active since the 1960s. The bold, humorous work of Yumura Teruhiko (b.1942) is associated with indie manga magazine GARO, first popular in the 1970s and ’80s. Works by younger artists include the photorealist stylings of Yukishita Mayu (b.1995), and the hyperrealist art of Tomozawa Kotao (b.1999).
‘The most significant movement in the world of Japanese illustration from the 1970s to the 1980s was that of heta-uma. What is ‘heta-uma’? It was one concept proposed by one illustrator. The concept has influenced many creators. It has also had a tremendous impact on Japanese graphic art today. We hope that through the WAVE exhibition you will be able to enjoy a look at the true state of Japanese graphic arts.’ – Co-curator Hiro Sugiyama
Art beyond category Many works in the exhibition have qualities representative of popular genres of Japanese graphic art such as pop art, photorealism and heta-uma – the combination of two Japanese words meaning ‘bad, unskilled’ and ‘good’, – where something that appears bad, is actually, on closer inspection, good. However, WAVE moves beyond categories, instead responding to multiple positions and perspectives, in cheerful defiance of arbitrary distinctions. The work of actor-cum-artist Asano Tadanobu (of Marvel Studios fame) appears alongside that of tupera tupera, a husband-and-wife team who have illustrated some of Japan’s most popular children’s books.
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