Winter Garden: The Exploration Of Micropop Imagination In Contemporary Japanese Art @ University Malaya Art Gallery

Japan. Micropop. Winter. Such obscure and faraway notions come together in an art exhibition at one quiet university gallery. Cute cats, rebellious acts, and manga characters, display a collective reaction to local norms, and does little to increase one’s appreciation of Japanese culture beyond existing perceptions. Paintings by Makiko Kudo and Masaya Chiba display a strong sense of melancholia, especially in the wooden rod jutting out from the latter’s ‘story of famous tree #6’. Most works, however, “…often seems idiotically primitive in technique and absurdly obvious in concept” (David Balzer). A certain dullness covers most paintings, unsurprising given the transportation mileage these works have accumulated (the exhibition has travelled for seven years to at least 18 countries, and just showed at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang).

Video snapshots of Taro Izumi – White Bear (2009)

Like the crazy game shows on Japanese television, works that project weird hilarity are the most affecting. Taro Izumi presents the folly of representation in a manner similar to rotating flashcards at a child. Fleeting pictures are diluted in water or slid away in a linear fashion, symptomatic of how we absorb visuals in the current age. Lyota Yagi’s vinyl made from ice amalgamates natural and synthetic mediums into one entertaining set, its video’s wistful projection most waggish as the artist departs in a car while the record is still playing. As I leave, a chance observation sees Tam Ochiai’s illustrations reflected onto Ibrahim Hussein’s absorbing work via the gallery’s glass enclosure. Universal dichotomies of hot/cold, implicit/explicit, and macro/micro pop into my mind, as I return home to look at pictures of ukiyo-e prints.

Preview video for Lyota Yagi – Vinyl (2005–2008)