Today’s brand new GTG Workshop explores the fantastical, colourful art of iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She is known as the ‘princess of polka dots’, because although she makes many different kinds of art, from sculpture, installation, paintings and drawings, they always feature lots and lots and LOTS of dots!
Kusama was born in Japan in 1929, and while she was still a child she began to experience vivid hallucinations which included vast fields of flowers like dots. The very earliest work that she made using dots was a drawing of a Japanese woman in a kimono, believed to be her mother, covered by dots – created when Kusama was only 10 years old.
She moved to America in the 1950s and became an important part of the avant-garde movement in New York. She was very productive over the next decade but because of widespread sexism in the art world, she struggled to gain widespread recognition and success. Kusama also had to watch some male artists get success and acclaim from copying her ideas – including Andy Warhol! Understandably, this was extremely frustrating and depressing for Kusama, and she moved back to Japan and didn’t make any new art for several years.
But in the late 1970’s she returned to making art from her new home in a hospital in Japan. Then in 1989 a very important exhibition looking back at her work and her huge influence on other artists was held in New York at the Center for International Contemporary Arts, organised by curator Alexandra Munroe which helped to bring Yayoi Kusama’s work back into the spotlight.
Origami is the traditional Japanese art of creating mini-sculptures by folding a flat, square sheet of paper – no scissors or glue required. The crane is one of the most famous designs, and one of the oldest known books about origami from 1797, called Hiden senbazuru origata (The Secret of Folding 1,000 Paper Cranes), contains instructions for making 49 different kinds of crane.
But origami is still being taken to new levels by contemporary artists – like this incredible life-size elephant created by artist Sipho Mabona from a single sheet of paper!
While we’re closed, we wanted to take a look back at some of the highlights of our exhibitions over the past year, and share the activity sheets for you to download and print at home. Please peruse some incredible art, then send us pictures of your own creations!
Last August the Golden Thread Gallery brought an incredible exhibition of contemporary Japanese art to Belfast. ‘Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now’ was co-curated by GTG Director Peter Richards, the Director of Art Center Ongoing in Tokyo Nozomu Ogawa and Belfast based Japanese artist, Shiro Masuyama. The exhibition included work by 11 different artists, with a broad spectrum of styles and approaches to contemporary art making.
Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now included spectacular live art events. Artist Takahiro Suzuki continued his global “生きろ (IKIRO) ” (meaning “Be Alive”) project in a durational performance in our Castlecourt pop-up space.
You can watch a video of IKIRO on our Facebook page here or this one taken by the Power family on a visit to Castlecourt here!
In Golden Thread Gallery One artist Yusuke Asai created a 17 metre long mud mural on-site, painting right on the gallery walls. He used soil and clay that he gathered here in Northern Ireland to paint his fantastical creatures and images of nature.
Shiro Masuyama’s installation work ‘Tokyo Landscape 2020‘ included an intricate motorised light ascending and descending over water to illuminate rows of plaster figures. Take a look at this video of the installation by Shiro.
Kyunchome’s video documentary ‘Making the Perfect Donut‘ begins with the idea of combining an American type donut with a sata andagi, an Okinawan donut, to create the ultimate deep-fried treat. But the piece explores the complicated history of American and Japanese relations, and the protests at the continuing presence of American military bases in Japan.
Atsushi’s piece was actually filmed in Belfast in 2014, during his residency with Flax Studios. In his video he walks around the city with his friends, dressed in a Japanese giant costume, responding to the mythology of Irish giant Finn McCool.
Artist Fuyuka Shindo has also spent time in Belfast, having studied at Belfast School of Art and been artist-in-residence in Flax Studios. Conducting research in museums and archives, she looks at objects such as traditional costumes and old photographs.
Her finished pieces incorporate elements from both past and present, through imagery, materials used or techniques employed.
Midori Mitamura has also worked in Belfast at Flax, and is now based in Tokyo. She makes interactive installations using ready-mades and projected images.
Her installation ‘Green on the Mountain’ was inspired by a family photograph that she found in Europe.
With Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now, we offered our visitors in Belfast the opportunity to experience aspects of Japanese life through the eyes of some of its most talented contemporary artists. Their work explored Japan’s distinct cultural issues in addition to drawing out the artistic parallels that unite creative practices across international boundaries, allowing the exhibition and visitors to reflect on the similarities that exist within our own cultures.
Read a review of the exhibition by art writer Slavka Sverakova here.
Please download and print our activity sheets to create your own artworks inspired by the exhibition, and send us pictures!
While we can’t hold our regular free family art workshops in the gallery, we thought we could share some of the exhibition art activities we’ve created over the past year, along with flashback virtual visits to those exhibitions. From tomorrow on our website you can remind yourselves of the artists whose work we have shown, and download and print the activity sheets!
Starting with a special award for Mums to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday! You can download our special Rosette design to colour in here, to make sure your Mum knows that she’s the best.
On Monday we’ll take a look back at the incredible Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now exhibition that we held last year – up above is a reminder of the amazing mud murals by Yusuke Asai, painted live in the Gallery right onto the walls!
We want keep our Junior Gallery going too, showcasing work by your budding artists. If they’ve painted a picture, done some drawing or colouring in, made crafts or just gone crazy with your own artwork, please send us photos. Look how empty it is – we need your help!
Email them to us at info at gtgallery.co.uk or share them with us on social media. Tell us the artists name and age too. You can use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Tag us in and use the hashtags #GTGBelfast and #GTGJuniorGallery We’ll add their work to our virtual Junior Gallery online using technological wizardry.
Check back tomorrow for the first virtual exhibition workshop!
Golden Thread Gallery's unique touring exhibition, Not Alone, created for our strange, new, transformed world continues on its journey in 2021. With isolation measures, travel restrictions and quarantine rules affecting art exhibitions and collaborations in every way, GTG Director Peter Richards...