Thought-provoking pieces from Japanese artists exploring the darker side of Japan’s love for all things small and cute are being showcased in a new exhibition at the University for the Creative Arts’ Farnham campus.
In the UK, kawaii is synonymous with Hello Kitty, who has just celebrated her 40th birthday. Curated by UCA’s internationally renowned crafts expert Professor Lesley Millar MBE, the exhibition features the work of over 15 Japanese artists. They are keen to showcase a more in-depth look at the concept that makes up such a large part of Japanese culture.
Underpinning all of the pieces is the desire to promote contemporary craft. “I hope that the exhibition will help to get people thinking about contemporary craft in a different way,” says Professor Millar. “The exhibition showcases the role of crafts as a commentator on popular culture as well as crafts as part of culture. It also gives the artists the opportunity to share something of their own understanding of kawaii.”
The artworks include a mass of handmade melting sugar roses by artist Minako Nishiyama, who completed the piece with support from Squires Kitchen Sugarcraft. We talked with Minako at the exhibition opening on 29th October.
Why have you specifically chosen sugar flower paste as your medium?
For me, sugar is the image of a sweet girl, feminine image or fragile dream, and also an object of desire. Sculpture historically has been made from something permanent, solid materials like stone or whatever. I wanted to use something more fragile.
After the big Kobe earthquake in 1995, I was very shocked and I couldn't make any art. Sugar work fitted my mindset at that time. In Japan, there are a lot of disasters, a lot of rain and humidity, so I think the Japanese mentality about time or eternity could be very different from others, about how everything is changing.
Have you had any training in making sugarcraft flowers?
Well yes, a little bit. I have been using sugarcraft in my artwork since about 1996. The first time I wanted to make a thousand roses for an installation, a sugarcraft teacher gave me a lesson in how to treat the paste and how to make sugar roses. I’ve got better at it. To give the flowers a melted look for this exhibition, I had to place them in an intensely humid environment for a few days.
What’s your most treasured piece of sugarcrafting kit?
A ball tool and a sponge pad to make flower petals flutter.
Are there any artists whom you admire?
Anish Kapoor in Britain and James Turrell in the USA.
Why do you do what you do?
Things which make me ask ‘why?’ inspire my art. Like... Why do women dress up? Why is pink a girl's colour? Why do people love roses? Why do Japanese people love kawaii?
Kawaii: Crafting the Japanese Culture of Cute is open to the public at UCA Farnham until 11th December.
Tell us what you think… join the conversation!
All we ask is that your posts follow the house rules.