View of exhibition Rising Sun, Melting Moon: Contemporary Art in Japan

"There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon". Matsuo Bashô (1644-1694)

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Japan, which has conquered innumerous technological heights, has in this past decade of multiculturalism, attained an ever increasing place of honor in the world of international art. Although Japanese contemporary art uses creative technology to look forward into the future, it also absorbs styles and symbols from western culture, and attains a strong link to motifs from its past, combining them - often in an ironic and subversive manner - in original artworks. This exhibition presents major aspects of Japanese contemporary art and offers a view of a society experiencing rapid change.

The 18 artists shown here come from a number of different generations. Their works deal with both universal subjects and with characteristics of modern Japanese society moving between past and present, reality and art, the cycle of life and nature and the urban landscape with all its chaos and alienation. Some of the artists create a private world rich with personal memories through the use of nature and rituals based on it. Others move from the private to the public space and transform it into a personal and familiar place. In contrast to these, there are works that gaze into an almost virtual future, where nature is transformed through computer manipulation into a futuristic landscape where animals, spirits, mythological creatures, and animation heroes (that are rooted deeply in the traditional Japanese culture) blend into a kind of imaginary utopia.

View of exhibition Rising Sun, Melting Moon: Contemporary Art in Japan

Japanese Bathhouse - Tabaimo

With bitter-sweet humor, many of the younger generation artists express a sharp socio-political critique of an establishment that demands uniformity that causes a "flatness" of cultural identity. Their works are full of a satirical and self-aware kitsch that undermines social conventions reflecting the special energy of this generation and what is hidden behind the phenomena that characterize them: an intentional attraction to all that is childish; extreme kitsch; the pervasive use of the adjective "cute" that has even been given the name "kawaii culture"; the admiration of Manga (Japanese comics) and of Animé (Japanese animated films) to the point of blurring the borders between reality and fiction (otako culture.) These artists use this street culture in their art to reveal issues such as the perception of women in Japanese culture and even traumatic experiences from Japan's past, primarily the bombing of Hiroshima.

Breaking the boundaries between genres and the negation of the hierarchy of high and low art is often a major element in works that make use of traditional masterpieces on the one hand and daily life and of modern consumerism on the other. Thus the artists take issue with what is seen as fitting in art and society, and examine the question of identity in a way that is sometimes humorous and sometimes suffused with dreams and nightmares. Traditional Japanese woodblock prints are exhibited alongside some of these works sparking a dialogue between the past and the present.

View of exhibition Rising Sun, Melting Moon: Contemporary Art in Japan

LABYRINTH (salt) - Motoi Yamamoto View of exhibition Rising Sun, Melting Moon: Contemporary Art in Japan View of exhibition Rising Sun, Melting Moon: Contemporary Art in Japan

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