To celebrate 90 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada, the Embassy of Japan is proudly exhibiting a carefully curated selection of the works of five female artists from Japan and bringing contemporary Japanese art to Canadian audiences. Go-Somewhere! is touring seven Canadian cities this summer and taking their art to North America for the very first time.
The Embassy of Japan is worth paying a visit on its own: I was greeted by kind and polite staff who were happy to engage with visitors, answer my questions and eager to promote the Embassy’s upcoming cultural activities. Their reception area, complete with a comfortable seating area, looks out onto a beautiful traditional Japanese courtyard and there were several booklets and pamphlets promoting tourism in Japan, along with Japanese books ranging from travel to literature. The group exhibit is displayed in the Embassy’s auditorium, whose natural wood panelled walls and ceiling evoke a sense of calm and structure, proper to Japanese culture. A soothing melody – the soundtrack from the Go-Somewhere! documentary that was screened in the reception area – beautifully accompanied viewers through the exhibit.
The artists’ work, different in style, medium and inspiration, mesh well together in this exhibit while still distinguishing themselves from one another and soliciting a unique viewing experience.
Mami Yonekura’s paintings are alike to storytelling yet rudimentary and primarily inspired by Japanese folklore. She invites viewers to reflect on solitude as a comforting state of being by depicting her subjects alone, yet existing harmoniously amongst natural elements. The whimsical nature of Yonekura’s imagery captures the viewers’ imagination and encourages them to discover the folkloric stories behind the brushstrokes.
In contrast with Yonekura’s solitude-filled canvases, Tomoko Aso paintings are alive with her subjects taking part in every-day Japanese activities and traditions. Her style is simple and the absence of shadows and defined perspective forces the viewer’s gaze to linger to fully grasp the imagery before them. She intentionally avoids painting the faces of her subjects. As such, we see them from the back or sideways, to the like of the Canadian painter Alex Colville.
Fans of abstract paintings will enjoy Akiko Takeuchi’s contemporary mixed media pieces, who convey her states of mind, being and time, rather than what she sees. Her dark and gloomy paintings are equalized by vibrant colours that soften what would otherwise be a somber pallet. Playing with hues of grey and colour, Takeuchi reminds the viewer that beauty can exist and even emerge from the shadows.
Diverging from her peers is sculptor Tsubomi Yonekura, whose work is achieved by mending silver and metal wire into large shapes. Her airy yet imposing wire sculptures teetered between roughness and softness. The round shapes in her pieces draw the viewer in and balance the harshness of the wire, which reminded me of barbwire or chicken wire – physical barriers that keep people or animals out.
Finally, viewers will be delighted by Kurumi Wakaki’s wonderful poster paint and ink prints that depict playful representations of sushi, Japanese life and even a road to the Toronto airport. Wakaki’s creativity extends from the subjects in her prints to their presentation. Nested into bento boxes and interlocking with one another, her work comes to life and takes an object-like form that is certain to spark joy and smiles.
Go-Somewhere! is exhibited from July 26 to August 4 at the Embassy of Japan, 255 Sussex Drive, on weekdays from 9:30am-4:30pm and weekends from 10am-4pm. Admission to the exhibition is free. Visitors can meet the artists on Saturday August 3rd at 2pm. Visit www.gosomewhere.ca for more information.