Friday, November 4, 2011

Art Alive On A5: Inspirational Postcard Pieces from Tohoku Artists

When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11th, power went out in most of the Tohoku region, impeding communications for weeks on end. The postal service turned out to be a godsend for families and friends. “In many cases, the first news that loved ones were safe was by postcard,” notes Joe Earle, director of Japan Society gallery.

Kate Thomson and Hironori Katagiri, two sculptors who divide time between Edinburgh, Scotland, and Iwate, Japan, curated work by 22 Tohoku-based artists in Postcards From Japan, a mini-exhibition free to the public at Japan Society’s A-Level until November 27.

Down by Japan Society's auditorium are two opposing walls lined with numerous tiny framed art pieces. They consist of beautiful photographic, acrylic, and ink work as well as some unusual media such as ruined remains of a school textbook, broken seashells, and even a small dried out fish.

The small-size artwork--fitting Japan’s standard A5 brochure paper--expresses a huge range of emotions. Abstract pieces stand out due to their use or lack of color while old photographs showing better times. Found objects from the aftermath wordlessly describe what has been lost. The conveyed feelings of whimsy, grief, and, most importantly, hope is incredibly powerful.

In the words of the wall text, Postcards from Japan is “a meditation on nature’s power to challenge us with no warning but it also reassures that life is indeed continuing in devastated Tohoku.”

When most funds are going directly towards relief efforts, the curators feel that creating art goes one step further to help “boost morale and stimulate hope for the future and enthusiasm to rebuild”. Sales from the exhibitions’ accompanying catalogue benefit artists living and working in the Tohoku.

--Sean Tomizawa

Images (top to bottom): Megumi Honda (1972–), Tono, Iwate Prefecture, Tenshin 2011, 2011, shells collected from hometown of Higashi-Matsushima, and paper , 5 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. (14.8 x 21 cm); Shigenobu Yoshida (1958- ), Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Light Bird, 2011, acrylic on acrylic board, 5 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. (14.8 x 21 cm).


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