Art may not be our forte, but The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) is definitely trying to help Malaysians to learn more about the beauty of art.

In recent years, the JFKL has had a series of events that inspire people to engage with the new values and virtues through arts. From Japanese Film Festival to Dance Dance Asia to “Making Space: We Are Where We Aren’t” exhibition, JFKL helped promote a better bilateral understanding between Malaysia and Japan.

In response to growing global interest in Japanese pop culture, the Japan Foundation commissioned art critic Midori Matsui to curate an exhibition. Titled “Winter Garden: The Exploration of Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art”, the travelling exhibition will make its Kuala Lumpur debut at the University of Malaya Art Gallery from 4th – 22nd June.

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Japan Foundation 'drawing for cat slide' by Tam Ochiai (2007). Colour pencil, pencil on paper, 152.0×223.7cm. © Tam Ochiai. Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.
“drawing for cat slide” by Tam Ochiai (2007). Colour pencil, pencil on paper, 152.0×223.7cm. © Tam Ochiai. Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.

Details are as follows:

Opening ceremony

  • Date: 5 June (Friday)
  • Time: 3 p.m.
  • Venue: University of Malaya Art Gallery, Level 5, Chancellery Building, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur

Exhibition

  • Date: 4th–22nd June
  • Visiting hours: 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m., Monday – Friday
  • Venue: University of Malaya Art Gallery, Level 5, Chancellery Building, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur
  • Admission: Free

The exhibition, which will feature works by some of Japan’s leading contemporary artists, already had a successful run in Penang earlier in April. It focuses on reality as a product of “micropop imagination”.

Matsui coined the term “Micropop” to describe the unique worldview of 14 young Japanese artists who rearrange fragments of information and knowledge to suggest fresh ways of perceiving the outmoded and banal. The 35 illustrations and installations on display promise to involve spectators in new games and situations that encourage flexible communication and spontaneous actions.

Japan Foundation 'VINYL' by Lyota Yagi (2006). Silicone, purified water, record player, freezer. © 2006 Lyota Yagi. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo
“VINYL” by Lyota Yagi (2006). Silicone, purified water, record player, freezer. © 2006 Lyota Yagi. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo

“Winter Garden” allows local art aficionados to discover prominent trends permeating contemporary art in Japan, the biggest of which deals with ephemerality. Lyota Yagi’s “VINYL”, comprising a toy gramophone and a 45s record made entirely of ice, is the most direct example of this. Removed from the silicon casings that imprint classics like “Clair de Lune” and “Moon River”, the frozen discs have a limited time before their sound melts away on the turntable into white noise, never to be heard again.

The theme of impermanence is once again manifest in Taro Izumi’s “Curos Cave”. The video sees the Nara native perform live drawings on a television monitor. As the images change, he erases his attempts and starts new ones, giving an abstract quality to the mess created on-screen.

Japan Foundation 'Curos Cave' by Taro Izumi (2005). DVD (8min.37sec). Courtesy of Hiromi Yoshii.
“Curos Cave” by Taro Izumi (2005). DVD (8min.37sec). Courtesy of Hiromi Yoshii.

Izumi shares billing with revolutionary artists Chim↑Pom, who documented themselves lighting fires in the form of words and pictures. Known for their provocative and avant-garde projects, the 6-member outfit was crowned the overall winner at the Prudential Eye Awards for Contemporary Asian Art earlier this year, walking away with the rights to exhibit at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery in London.

Koki Tanaka, who has participated in the Venice Biennale, was recently honoured as “Artist of the Year” by Deutsche Bank. The LA-based installation artist contributes 3 videos from his oeuvre, which has drawn much critical praise for presenting an inventive approach towards community-making.

Japan Foundation 'might fly at night' by Makiko Kudo (2007). Oil on canvas. 117.0x117.0cm. © Makiko Kudo. Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.
“might fly at night” by Makiko Kudo (2007). Oil on canvas. 117.0×117.0cm. © Makiko Kudo. Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.

Manga culture is also well-represented by Mahomi Kunikata, Makiko Kudo and Aya Takano. Japanese comics are clear inspirations for their works, especially those of Kunikata. A former student of the famed pop artist, Takashi Murakami, she adopts the genre’s conventions to explore and communicate issues of abandonment, masochism, and depression.

Other participating artists of the exhibition include Ryoko Aoki, Masaya Chiba, Masanori Handa, Tam Ochiai, Hiroe Saeki, Hiroshi Sugito, and Keisuke Yamamoto.

“Winter Garden” started its tour at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 2009. Since then, it has been held internationally in Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia Pacific. It will continue to do so till 2020.

For more information about the exhibition, visit Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur’s official website or call them at 03 2284 6228.

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Adrina was our former writer and now contributes to Hype. Find out what she's up to on her IG: @moonsglowslow.