japanese art, design and culture

Category — Art

Yayoi Kusama Socks

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The prolific Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is currently participating in Dogo Onsen Art 2014, an art festival taking place at Japan’s most ancient hot springs. As part of the exhibition, Kusama has released a series of limited-edition socks printed with her iconic polka dot patterns. They’re being sold exclusively through SPIRAL and retail for 2,835 – 5,145 yen. They’re available in men’s, women’s and as tights. I don’t think I’ve ever lusted over a pair of socks before.

Kusama has never been shy about turning her art into buyable merchandise. She’s incredibly entrepreneurial. “You go to her studio today, it’s all so full of Kusama product,” says Tate Modern curator Frances Morris. “She’s produced fabric to clothing to mobile phones.”

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source: PEN

March 19, 2014   Comments Off

Altus | photographs that show the beauty of white space

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Altus is a Latin adjective meaning “high, deep, noble or profound.” In a photographic body of work by the same name, Takashi Suzuki presents a series of minimal landscapes that are delicately interrupted by white space.

“In this series, my interest is in interspace and space,” says the artist. He goes on to explain that his work is about the beauty and perception of negative space or margins; even more so than the actual landscapes themselves.
Indeed, normally I would feel annoyed or turned off by such a radical gap in scenery but these photos are incredibly calming. It’s as if the negative space is supposed to be there.

Suzuki’s photos are currently part of the group show “cognition / recognition” in Tokyo that runs through 4/19/2014.


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March 17, 2014   2 Comments

Haptic Green | Captivating photos of trees made from hundreds of small scans



Our perception of color is made possible by cone cells in our eyes. And people with normal vision have 3 cone cell types: red, green blue. Of the 6-7million, about 45% are green, which means our eyes don’t have to work as hard to perceive the color. This also means that green is the most relaxing color to look at.

But the process in which Japanese photographer Naruki Oshima created his “Haptic Green” series as hardly relaxing at all. In fact, the images come together from a complex technical process involving hundreds of smaller elements. The art historian Valérie Douniaux explains:

The process he uses is like a scan: with the camera fixed at a precise point, the artist methodically shoots a series of images starting from the bottom left corner of the frame, up to the top right-hand side. In reassembling the shots, Oshima works meticulously to correct distortions created by the fixed camera angle and to erase overlaps, in order to give the impression of a single image, a single shot…Naruki Oshima redistributes the image’s composing elements, combining close ups with long distance frames, mixing focused with blurred.

Perhaps it’s the delicate balance of calming and complexity that makes this series so intriguing. Oshima’s photos are currently part of the group show “cognition / recognition” in Tokyo that runs through 4/19/2014.





March 15, 2014   Comments Off

Visualizing Radiation | The Form of Fukushima

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Three years ago a devastating earthquake and tsunami took the lives of 18,500 and the homes of 470,000 more. Not only that, it set off terrifying chain of events that crippled a nuclear reactor, leaking radiation into the air, ground and sea. Part of what makes radiation so dangerous is that it’s invisible, rendering it susceptible to misinformation and credibility.

Art student Hiroyuki Gotoh, who has been focusing his artwork on making the invisible, visible, became fascinated with the virality of radiation and decided to base his senior thesis exhibition on this topic. “The Form of Fukushima” (福島の形相) uses a polar graph drawing machine to visualize publicly available data on radiation levels in Fukushima. In a singularly robotic way, a pen endlessly draws on a canvas, creating a graphical portrayal that is at once beautiful, but also frightening.

“The Form of Fukushima” will be on display this weekend at Tama Art University’s graduation work exhibition.

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(this post is part of our review of student artwork from 2014 senior thesis exhibitions. You can see all our coverage of student artwork here)

March 11, 2014   Comments Off

It’s not what it seems | painted food disguised to look like other food



When not creating hyper-realistic body paintings, Tokyo-based artist Hikaru Cho points her paintbrush to ordinary food lying around her house. In a playful series aptly titled “It’s not what it seems,” Choo-san (as she is called) paints over foods like bananas, tomatoes and eggs, creating a brilliant disguise that presents her subjects as entirely different food.



The series is certainly a lot more light-hearted than her recent campaign to raise awareness for sexual exploitation. But aside from being mere eye-candy the series, on a deeper level, encourages us to look beyond what we see on the outer layers as it can be very misleading.



source: junk culture

March 9, 2014   1 Comment

Japanese online community of artists create a single artwork out of 50,000 illustrations

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Even if you live in Japan, unless you’re into manga-style illustrations you’ve probably never heard of Pixiv. The Japanese website was founded in 2007 as an online community of artists. Their user base grew briskly and just last month they surpasses 10 million users. To celebrate the milestone, the team initiated a community project, calling on their users to submit artwork to create a single mega-scale illustration.

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Users could submit 1 piece per day over a 9-day period. The only stipulation was that the illustrations were to be in the shape of ema (絵馬): wooden plaques with pictures and wishes on them that are customarily hung at Shinto shrines. The final artwork would combine all the ema into a single massive ema.

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On February 22, the illustrations began rolling in and by the end of the period the project had received an astounding 52,014 illustrations. The final work, a microcosmic portrayal of the community of artists, looks like a massive universe.

“pixiv currently gets on average 26K submissions per day,” writes* a staff member in a blog post explaining the project. “It’s difficult to actually get a sense for what 26K illustrations look like.” And so the team came up with a way to visualize their entire community of artists.

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source: KAI-YOU

March 6, 2014   Comments Off

My Body My Rights | Evocative body painting by Hikaru Cho


“Cracked Face” | You have the right to live free from rape and sexual violence

The Tokyo-based hyper-realist painter Hikaru Cho has created a striking series of body paintings for Amnesty International. Launched today, ahead of International Woman’s Day, the “My Body My Rights” campaign raises awareness for issues like sexual exploitation and harassment through eerily realistic body paintings.


“The Key” | You have the right to choose if or when, you have children


“The Key” | You have the right to choose if or when, you have children


“Books” | You have the right to know and learn about your body, sexual health and relationships


“The Kiss” | You have the rights to choose your partner

You can watch a time-lapse of all the works being created right here.

Astonishingly, the Tokyo-based artist, who goes by the nickname Choo-san, is just 21 years old. She enrolled in Musashino Art University in 2012 but actively pursued a professional career alongside her studies, creating a popular series of tights, as well as doing commercial work like posters, smartphone apps and character design.

Here is some of her previous work. TO keep up to date with her work you can follow her on twitter or Instagram.




source: @yurikageyama

March 6, 2014   Comments Off

A Paper Tree Made From the Imprints of Tree Bark

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“kyo” by Takumi Sato | images courtesy musashino art university and JDN

Picking up where we left off in our review of this year’s BFA art shows from Japan, we present to you a tree made from washi paper. In an act of reverse engineering, printmaking student Takumi Sato took over 100 imprints of tree bark – which is used to make washi paper – and then imprinted them back into washi paper itself. He then tiled the paper together and hung it from the ceiling, creating a hollow yet larger-than-life tree.

Sato’s massive tree titled kyo (虚), meaning not real or empty, was part of Musashino Art University’s senior thesis show. It was on display earlier this year.

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(this post is part of our review of student artwork from 2014 senior thesis exhibitions. You can see all our coverage of student artwork here)

March 4, 2014   1 Comment

Bird’s Eye View Maps by Cartographer Hatsusaburo Yoshida


Hiroshima – click for full size

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Nowadays we have satellites and computers that greatly aid the daunting task of map-making. But that wasn’t the case just 100 years ago. Cartographers had to actually go out and explore their subjects, taking precise measurements and making difficult calculations. One of these artists was Hatsusaburo Yoshida (1884-1955). Born in Kyoto and raised by a single mother, Yoshida originally was trained as a textile designer.

Yoshida was one of the most popular cartographers of his time, not because his maps were accurate – they were actually deformed and, at times, illogical – but because he spent an enormous amount of time surveying the land. Before even beginning his work he would spend months walking around the site, interviewing people and discovering local favorites.


Nanjing – click for full size

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Nanjing (detail)

The spots he chose to emphasize in his maps actually created landmarks that are now famous today. Orders were coming in from all over the country and Yoshida had to expand his practice, hiring several assistants to help him create over 3000 maps.


Tokushima – click for full size

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Tokushima (detail)

But Yoshida’s success was not permanent. When WWII began, the military deemed Yoshida’s maps to be a threat to homeland security, essentially crushing his practice.

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After the war ended, Yoshida left behind one final map of Hiroshima, depicting the land just moments after the detonation of the atomic bomb.


Today (March 4) is actually his birthday and Google Japan has created an homage to his work.


source: wikipedia

March 3, 2014   Comments Off

Macro Photographs of Soy Sauce by Taisuke Koyama






Photographer Taisuke Koyama is fascinated with the miniature world. And I’m not talking about figurines. I mean the world at a microscopic level. Armed with a macro lens and an eye for design, Koyama photographs the smaller things in life and then focuses even closer, creating abstract, organic photographs. He’s most well-known for his “Rainbow Form” series in which he captured outdoor advertisements that contained rainbow colors.

One of his latest series is “Circulation (Crystallized – Melted).” Based on the photographs alone they look like close-ups of the burning surface of the sun. The title doesn’t help much either but these are actually photographs of crystallized and melted soy sauce, Japan’s favorite condiment. Koyama will be showing his photographs on March 20 at Solae Art Gallery Project.

Source: hitspaper

February 28, 2014   2 Comments