BY JUN INOUE & SHUN KAWAKAMI
Modern Japanese culture is, at times, a frenetic mash-up of international influences. Advertisements from Coca-Cola, Supreme and Mercedes illuminate Tokyo’s streets; L.A slang infects the language; all while Andy Warhol mixes with Francis Bacon to inspire Takeshi Murakami.
Hidden within the manic expression of Western iconography, there is something uniquely Japanese; a cultural tradition behind the aesthetic framework. This ‘something’ has roots as far back as Buddhiusm’s influence in Nara period (8th Century), when the flowering of expression in the late Muromachi period (15th Century) brought popularity to Zen. The spiritual influence of Zen brought an interconnected sense between humanity and nature. It is the organic aesthetic that comes to our minds when we think of ‘traditional’ Japanese art. It is called wabi-sabi; It is Ikebana; It is “mono no aware”, ‘the awareness of things’. It is the Japanese tea ceremony. It is Zen. It is best described as the term ‘Shibui'.
Despite ubiquity and cultural importance, emerging Japanese artists in the 90’s and 2000’s started to view traditional Japanese aesthetics as kitsch and antiquated. They cast it aside, eager to join the global artistic narrative that swelled to dominance during the rise of the internet. Since then Shibui has fallen out of vogue, slipping into it’s current position as an invisible framework from which Japan processes western iconography.
Is there some way to modernize and revive traditional Japanese aesthetics? Could an artist, drawing on tradition, create something that will inspire Japanese artists and designers to embrace their cultural history. Is there a new era of contemporary, Japanese aesthetics on the horizon? These are the questions that two prominent Japanese artists, from two very different backgrounds, asked themselves before starting careers which now seem poised to find the answers.
During the mid 2000’s, graffiti artist Jun Inoue from Kanagawa began taking inspiration from his grandfather, a Zen monk and calligrapher. Jun’s expressive calligraphic approach to street art has made him one of Tokyo’s leading artists as he stands centre stage at Paris Fashion Week.
Around the same time in the centre of Tokyo, graphic designer Shun Kawakami began to apply Shibui and Iki aesthetic to digital collage and typography. His studio was formed and based on this principle of “tradition” and now is one of Tokyo’s most highly awarded design and architecture firms, with clients ranging from the Microsoft to Issey Miyake.
In this debut collaboration between Jun Inoue & Shun Kawakami, STROKE is their first joint effort to convey their vision for contemporary Japanese aesthetics. Stroke consists of a live painting event at MONA, a food / music / art performance in collaboration with NEKO NEKO and a large, free, exhibition of paintings, prints and installations at Backwoods Gallery.
The exhibition will be on display, at Backwoods Gallery, from the 31st of March until the 14th April.
Check the calendar below for other events.
MONO NO AWARE
FOOD / ART / MUSIC
Exhibition preview night and live paint by Jun Inoue.
A sit down dinner and collaborative artistic performance. Live music, live painting by Jun Inoue and
Food design by Shingo Tochimoto, coordinated to create a perfectly considered expression of contemporary Japanese culture.
Limited to 30-40 seats.
MAR 31 - APR 16
A collection of paintings, prints and installations but Jun Inoue and Shun Kawakami. On display from the 31st of March until the 14th of April. Free Entry.
THE TRANSIENCE OF ALL THINGS HEIGHTENS APPRECIATION OF THEIR BEAUTY, AND EVOKES A GENTLE SADNESS AT THEIR PASSING.
mono no aware.
LIVE PAINT & PREVIEW DINNER.
MAR 30. 7PM ~ 9:30PM.
Mono No Aware. 物の哀れ. A sensitivity to ephemera.
A live paint performance by Jun Inoue with a specially designed menu by Shingo Tochimoto (Head chef of Neko Neko & Wabi Sabi Salon) and live music by JPS.
Limited to 40 seats, this catered, sit down, dinner will blend music, food and art into a ephemeral production that aims to establish the new contemporary expression of ‘Mono No Aware’. The main course will be served on hand painted plates by Jun Inoue & Ion Fukazawa (Mukumono) which be given to all guests as a memento of the night.
Seats are $150 each and include dinner, sake, a hand painted plate as well as gifts from our project partners. Vegan or Pescatarian options.
Jun Inoue was raised in regional Kanagawa, Japan, where he studied Shodō (traditional Japanese calligraphy). His grand father, a Zen Monk, became a major influence on his philosophy and aesthetic vision. Upon moving to Tokyo, the energy of the city’s underground - jungle, hip-hop and most importantly, graffiti - played a major role in further shaping his aesthetic development.
Shun Kawakami is a highly awarded designer & artist living in Tokyo. He is also the founder and chief of Artless Inc. Kawakami has won several prestigious international awards including NY ADC: Young Gun 6, NY Art Director’s Club (ADC), NY Type Directors Club (TDC), The One Show and the London International Award. In Japan, Kawakami has won numerous awards including the Tokyo Type Directors Club (TDC), iF Design, Good Design Award and the Tokyo Interactive Ad Award. His professional membership includes the New York Art Directors Club (NY ADC) and the Japan Graphic Designers Association Inc.
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