Nagoya Art Collaboration

Nagoya Art Collaboration

Added In: Articles › Arts

Kenneth Holmes

The interesting thing about being a foreigner in Japan is that you get to see the various mergings, combinations and adaptations that happen when cultures collide. Take your average, reasonably fluent gaijin in Japan. When he or she is speaking in English to fellow gaijin, count the Japanese words that slip into his or her speech. There are some words in Japanese that fit the bill (so to speak) so well, that they slip into the English spoken sentence un-urged. Words like zannen, shouganai, saiyaku etc. just appear, without the speaker consciously having made the choice to use those foreign words.
Combination, and the merging of two trains of thought, are the theme of two unique artists. Kougetsu Iio is one of the leading shodo (calligraphy) artists in Japan. She has been at the cutting edge of shodo for a long time, taking traditional forms and adapting them to a range of modern applications, from graphic design through to sculpture. Some years ago a man in his teens was introduced to her shodo studio. He was unable to write his name in kanji, had spent years overseas in Hawaii, and had Down Syndrome. His name is Taishi Kawada.

Taishi had a long fascination with photography. His parents took him to live in Hawaii because, as Taishi said “Can’t take photos in Japan. Everything is grey”. In Hawaii he became something of a cause célèbre, exhibiting a range of his photographic work. Returning to Japan, he refused to photograph anymore. His mother took him along to Iio san’s calligraphy studio, to try and encourage him to learn to write.

Iio san had at first some misgivings. How to encourage this boy to learn kanji? She started by getting him to write the names of his favourite J-Pop stars. From there, Kawada san’s enthusiasm grew. And then, they talked about artistic collaboration. What if, wondered Iio san, I took Kawada san’s photography, and put them together with my calligraphy? What would happen?
Encouraging Kawada san to once again take up his camera, so began a work in progress.  Kawada san takes photos. He can’t take his camera with him everywhere he goes (he is apt to lose it); rather, he heads out for a day, sees something that works for him, and then rushes home to collect his camera and shoot. These photos come to Iio san, and then she composes a word or a phrase, and overlays that over the photo. Sometimes they work in reverse; a word or phrase is placed in an environment that Kawada san manipulates into position for a photo of his image of it.

A unique and insightful look into the merging of two world views. Keep an eye out for their next exhibition.

Nagoya Art Collaboration
Iio san with calligraphu piece
Nagoya Art Collaboration
Taishi Kawada ay his latest exhibition