Favourites from the Tokyo Art Fair 2017

The Tokyo Art Fair 2017 was in March. I was lucky enough to attend for Tokyo Art Beat. I can be a bit shy so having the purpose of recording impressions of the Art Fair and wearing a press arm band really helped to break the ice. There was a lot of work that I really enjoyed and conversations with the artists and gallery owners were fascinating. There were some space constraints for the TAB article and I thought I would share the work here as well.

Artist information is in the title of the photo so you may need to click to see it. My comments are in the description of the photos.

All photos taken with permission of the artists or gallery representatives.

Detail of Chigusa Kono’s glasswork.

 

Kono-San is really nice and generous with her time. Plus she’s a Gunma artist! I’ve met so many people from Gunma recently. I love the concept of her imaginary plants. She bases her work on real plant detail but creates alien looking biological forms. Her work also makes a nod to ikebana. You can arrange the glass plants as you like in the stone stand.  I really regret not getting a better photo of the detail of the work.

 


I rally enjoyed the audio sculpture created by Pe Lang and Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri. I wish I had done a better job of capturing this. I had a really interesting discussion with Marianthi about the work and her collaboration with Pe Lang.

This kinetic sculpture really fascinated me as well.

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Nicosui and Harunobu Aihara: The Couple that Felts Together

aihara-yuko-nicosui-needlefelting-fiber-artist-lorionophotographyYuko and Harunobu Aihara felt together. The pair recently had a fiber sculpture exhibition called Ikimono Expo 2 at Gallery Choukou (ギャラリー澄光) near Okusawa station (on the Meguro line) that shows how creative and detailed needle felting can be. The couple started 7 years ago with a small needle felting kit but immediately saw potential for their own designs and started with their own creations almost immediately. One thing that I noticed was the variety of color in the work and I know that they base structure takes a lot of wool. They admit to having a lot of wool roving–two large plastic boxes in fact. For two artists working together and using the same medium, their aesthetic is completely different. And all of the incredible detail (except for Harunobu Aihara’s yarn wrapping), is done with felting needles, not embroidery.

Aihara Yuko uses the artist name Nicosui. Real animals and the animal characters of Grimm’s fairytales inspire her work. She chooses her subjects by how much they intrigue her. Sometimes it is the story, as with the fairytale creatures, but often it is the animal’s face and her desire to try and create a particular shape or feature. She chose the koala because she was interested in recreating the fluffy ears and the shape of the muzzle. She told the most difficult was the giraffe because of the structure. It was surprisingly longer and thinner in the nose than compared to skull.


aihara-yuko-nicosui-needlefelting-fiber-artist-lorionophotography-2While Nicosui’s creations look realistic, she seldom chooses the animal’s natural color. Instead she chooses a color palette that represents what she sees the spirit of the animal: red for the lion, and pink and purple for the feminine nature of the giraffe, green for the koala. She also makes more realistically colored animals in small scale for broaches.

What Nicosui wants people to know about her work:

ぜつめつ動物をなくす (prevent extinction of animals)

Many of the characters she creates are endangered animals. She hopes to inspire the viewer to live in peace with animals and take care of the earth so that people and animals have a healthy place to live.

aihara-harunobu-fiber-artist-needlefelting-portrait-lorionophotography

Aihara-san holds “Gokiburi”

 

Harunobu Aihara is an illustrator and graphic designer. He is also a bassist in a 70’s music hard rock band. Nicosui’s work has more realism while Aihara’s work is about unique, fantastical characters. His style is whimsical and humorous. He says his style has almost always been like this. This year was the first he tried making insect-inspired creature. He really enjoyed them so he made a lot.

It’s not just Aihara’s aesthetic that is different from Nicosui’s. His work process is also completely different. He says that Nicosui takes a lot of time with each project working slowly to perfect her details while he prefers いきよいでつくる, making with momentum.

While he often starts with a sketch, which he may or may not adhere to. Sometimes he freestyles with wool. The base of his sculptures are wire armatures. He builds dimension over the armature by wrapping wool roving around it, and using felting needles to refine the shape. The color detail is a layer of needle felting, sometimes wrapping with yarn or fabrics depending on the effect he wants


He also made many angels, which also have insect or avian features. He said that they are slightly disguised to look like a bird if a person looked up to see one flying in the sky.


His goal: たのしと平和.  He wants to bring viewers moments of enjoyment where they can feel peace through happiness.

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Mildred Trevor Thornes Giveaway

Finished! Mildred Trevor-Thornes profile angle.

Finished! Mildred Trevor-Thornes profile angle.

Finally!

I finished the drawings for the winner of The Great Mushroom Detective’s hedgehog-character naming contest. I ended up calling the international-hedgehog-of-mystery-criminal-mastermind Mildred Trevor Thornes of the Hedgely Trevor-Thornes. It started with casting the villain for The Great Mushroom Detective: The Case of the Golden Mushroom. Once I settled on the hedgehog, I needed a good name. Readers to the rescue! Big thanks to Dolly Tartan who supplied the names Mildred or Thornes.

The portrait angle of Mildred was pretty difficult for me but I finally came up with a sketch that I like. I love how she looks like she’s up to wickedness in the front-view. The portraits I drew made her look too sweet. I drew on artist trading card illustration board. I really like that surface for drawing.

Here’s the finished gift (photographed on the train so there are some weird reflections).

Present for Mildred Trevor-Thornes naming contest.

Present for Mildred Trevor-Thornes naming contest.

 

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Artist Interview with Arthur Huang

Is This The Way I Went. Photo credit: Arthur Huang

Is This The Way I Went. Photo credit: Arthur Huang

Arthur Huang took time to answer some questions as part of my interview series to wrap up Art Byte Critique group’s participation in the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016.

Arthur is the founder of ABC. Arthur is a neuroscientist and his artistic practices reflect data collection and the structure of memories and the brain. He describes his work best:

“I live and work in Tokyo, Japan as an artist and researcher. I am interested in everyday memories which I have been exploring in my studio practice since 2001. I moved to Tokyo in 2009 to work as a molecular biologist and neuroscientist at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute studying memory and learning in mice. I am the director of the Tokyo-based artist collective Art Byte Critique. I have exhibited work in the United States, Europe, and Japan including HAGISO, Southern Exposure, Printed Matter, neurotitan, the Austin Museum of Art, Tokyo Art Book Fair, Spiral Independent Creator’s Festival, and the Setouchi Triennale 2013.”
-Arthur Huang

Why did you want to participate in TABF?
Books and printed matter are so fascinating to me.  Along with the ideas presented in printed matter, the way they are printed and how they feel in my hand are equally important.  I love going to a bookstore and choosing a book just based on how it looks and how it feels in my hand.  Artist’s books are an further extension of that idea of object and it offers another way to present ideas that is not solely restricted to reading from front to back.

21 Days of Memory Walks. Photo credit: Arthur Huang

21 Days of Memory Walks. Photo credit: Arthur Huang. 2015

Back in 2013, I came to the TABF for the first time and I was amazed at the range of books, zines, and other printed matter that was being made in Japan and around the world. I made a simple artist book using screen printing in graduate school and I found the process of making it and the end result quite enjoyable. But between the end of graduate school and my first visit to TABF, I never found the proper motivation or inspiration to return to the process.  Seeing what was possible with artist’s books and looking for a way to bring together different artists associated with Art Byte Critique, I decided to organise artists to learn how to make artist’s books and participate in the TABF.  This was our third year of participating at the TABF and it continues to be inspirational interms of seeing what other artists are making as well as a way to seek out other like-minded artists to participate in Art Byte Critique’s activities.

What kind of books did you produce?

For the TABF 2016, I decided to simplify my process due to a number of concurrent exhibitions.  I also wanted to move away from the overly labor intensive production process that I found myself involved in for the last two TABF.  I decided to focus on my

everyday drawings and make a zine that speaks to my process of making these drawings.  The result of these efforts was an A5 size, 16-page zine called “Dialogue #1” where I start two drawings with two different motifs and let the two motifs bleed onto the other drawing over the course of making the final drawings.

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Having regular meetings about organising the booth as well as seeing work in progress was very motivating.  It was fantastic to see the continued enthusiasm of artists who have been making books for the TABF since 2014.  It was also great to see artists become enamoured with the making of artist’s books for the first time.  The energy was contagious for everyone I think.

What do you take away from this experience?/What did you learn from the process of preparing for the show?
It continues to be a great experience and I look forward to ABC’s continued participation in the TABF.  What I have come to realise is that while the process of making the artist’s books is the main focus, we also need to think more about the presentation component of our work within the context of the booth.  Walking around the TABF and looking at other artists and what they came up with for the presentation was inspiring and daunting.  We learned a great deal about the potential for creating a presentation that catches the eye among the hundreds of booths at TABF.

Over the course of the last several years, I have come to realise that my artist’s books are not a standalone work.  They often work in relationship to or supplement larger works and ideas that I am interested in.  I think that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, I want to work more on making artist’s books that can be presented on their own without the need for any additional context.

What was your biggest challenge?
I am used to working on labor intensive projects so simplifying the studio process for this “Dialogue #1” zine was my biggest challenge.  Even seeing the finished project and being satisfied with how well it correlated to the idea in my head, I still continue to spin ideas about how to make it more.  I need to try and remember that sometimes, “more” is not necessary.

If you are interested in Art Byte Critique, you can find out more at https://atobaito.wordpress.com or check out their Facebook page.

You can find out more about Arthur Huang and his work at: http://www.arthurjhuang.com/

 

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Artist Interview with Yuko Kamei

Today Yuko Kamei shares her insights about the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016 and working with  Art Byte Critique group. This is the second in a series of interview with the ABC artists who participated in the TABF 2016.

Portrait of Yuko Kamei

Portrait of Yuko Kamei courtesy of the artist.

Yuko studied contemporary dance at Roehampton University, U.K. and received her MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2007. Her interest in body-based thinking led her to the legacy of post-modern dance in New York in the 1960s and 70s, especially Contact Improvisation. She learned how the laws of physics apply to human bodies and movements, and how musculoskeletal awareness influences abstract thinking. Seeking for ways to communicate kinesthetic wisdom learned through dancing, she finds photography to be ideal space in which to work.

Why did you want to participate in TABF?
I have been an artist book fan myself, and participation to TABF was something I’ve always wanted to do.

Art book of notes and sketches by Yuko Kamei

Thoughts Collection by Yuko Kamei

What kind of books did you produce?
This year I made a small A7 sized photocopy booklet with drawings which represents my key thoughts for the last 5 years of my artistic journey.

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
To be honest I wouldn’t have been able to make it without being with ABC. I had this willingness of book-making all the time but when it comes to the content creation things get quite tough. For me, the get together became a good deadline for the initial sets of drawing, and warm and encouraging comments from ABC artists on that day fuelled me so much to finalise a book in the next 10 days.

What do you take away from this experience?
One thing I am happy about is the fact that I was able to make a book which is very meaningful to my own development. Secondly, I am feeling grateful to have such a supportive and inspirational individuals around me.

Thoughts Collection by Yuko Kamei (inside pages view)

Thoughts Collection by Yuko Kamei (inside pages view)

What did you learn from the process of preparing for the show?
In terms of TABF display preparation, I was not able to do much due to my current job circumstances. So I just would like to thank you all for making it happen.

Why do you make books?
I like thinking about exhibitions, and I take books as one of such platforms. Structurally it has a distinct linearity but at the same time it can expand and collapse in area. Book format works for me sometimes to give a shape to my floating ideas.

If you are interested in Art Byte Critique, you can find out more at https://atobaito.wordpress.com or check out their Facebook page.

You can find out more about Yuko Kamei and her work at: http://yuccak.net

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Artist Interview with Nick West

Nick West iss part of the Art Byte Critique group which participated in the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016. Nick was kind enough to take the time to share about his work and his experience with ABC and the TABF2016.

Photo by Nick West,

Photo by Nick West,

Why did you want to participate in TABF?
I wanted to show work that belonged among other artists’ editions and independent publishing projects. TABF was the ideal event to share work with readers who were receptive to this kind of work.

What kind of books did you produce?
I made a drawing and a book. For some time, I’ve been intrigued by the fake wooden logs used for steps or fences in the parks and forests here. Using these as my starting point, I made some drawings that I collaged together that looked as though they could be assembled to make a fire. I thought of it as a kind of pre-book.

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Broadly speaking, the creative process can often be an isolated activity. Being part of a group of artists who meet up and discuss what they are making helps to inform your creative decisions. I had a couple of false starts in my preparation for TABF but by meeting up with other artists allowed me to realise that I needed to change course.

What do you take away from this experience?
More than anything, I take away an appreciation for how much interest there is in physical objects. It was really encouraging to see how popular TABF was, and to see people taking delight in leafing through artists’ books.

What did you learn from the process of preparing for the show?
That making art is a continual process. It’s not an activity that you can dip into occasionally. I had probably given more of my time to research than to production in my preparation for TABF, and this hindered what I made initially.

What would you like people to know about your books?
That there are more to come. In the past, I have made artworks using circular-bound books, and this is the direction I plan to develop future book works.

What was your biggest challenge?
As I mentioned, by giving more of my time to research than to production in my preparation for the fair. Having said that, participating in TABF has spurred me on to make more books, more often.

If you are interested in Art Byte Critique, you can find out more at https://atobaito.wordpress.com or check out their Facebook page.

You can find out more about Nick West and his work at:

Nick also writes for TABlog the Tokyo Art Beat Blog.

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Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016: That’s a Wrap!

Another Tokyo Art Book Fair has come and gone. Really proud of my fellow Art Byte Critiquers for their hard work. Loved their books and it’s so much fun to work with them.

I’m still really interested in creating mame bon. Mame bon translates to bean books, so called because of their small size. My friend kindly described my books as objets, and I was really happy to hear that. I want people to treat them as objects that they can look at and fiddle with and enjoy. I had a few other ideas for books that I wasn’t able to complete for this fair but I’m quite happy with my books this year. Bumble is probably my favorite book. I really like bees and this photo collection of bumble bees and lavender is actually quite cute. My ultimate favorite is the zine MaiNichi Mushroom. Lots of people were interested in MaiNichi Mushroom and some copies were sold. Foxey did a great job to promote the magazine.

What I probably enjoy most is watching people interact with my books. Of course it’s great when they buy them, but I also enjoy watching people pick up the books, discuss them with friends and walk away with a smile. It’s especially flattering to have someone by a book at TABF because there are so many great books for people to choose from!

The last two years I usually did interviews before the fair to promote their work and the fair. This year we were all working up until the deadline and had no time. But I really want to share their work with you so look for artist interviews in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow I will post about a couple of the books I bought. It’s too dark now to take photos that would do the books justice.

If you went to TABF this year, please comment and let me know what you thought of the fair this year. If you have any questions about my books, don’t hesitate to ask!

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