6th June 2019 – (Hong Kong) The Japanese art style of ukiyo-e has its origins in Edo-era, depicting the many facets of life and society of the time. The genre has continued to enjoy great popularity in the artistic realm, with strong influence on renowned modern Japanese artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. Internationally, ukiyo-e has also had a major impact on the development of modern art. Vincent Van Gogh, for example, is known to have studied the art style, and ukiyo-e influences can be found in his works and that of many other Impressionist artists.
K11 strives to provide a platform to promote contemporary art. Following last year’s collaboration on “The Arrival of Cosmic Girl”, K11 is once again collaborating with JPS Gallery, teaming up with four prominent ukiyo-e artists, Horihiro Mitomo, Ukiyoemon Mitomoya, Horitatsu and Bang Ganji to jointly present “K11 Art Matsuri” Modern Art of Floating World Exhibition from now until 1 July. In a break from tradition, these four artists bridge the gap between traditional art and everyday life, combining ukiyo-e with modern elements and fusing different cultural elements into a cool ‘new’ art form – after all, everyday life is exactly what ukiyo-e is about.
The exhibit has six main segments – Street Fashion, Japanese Work Culture, Anime, Manga Culture and Yokai Culture, with the aim of savouring the meaning behind ukiyo-e, and correlating it with the viewer’s own life experience and values.
Four Ukiyo-e Artists Join Forces in a Journey Through the Twin Worlds of Edo Art and Popular Culture
Segment 1: Samurai and Geisha Travel Through Time into the Modern World
As ukiyo-e depicts the everyday life, Horihiro Mitomo meticulously encompasses contemporary elements into his ukiyo-e works, which shortened the distance between traditional art and daily life. In his works, samurai and geisha from the Edo era travelled through time into the modern world. They wear sneakers, drink soda and eat ice pop in Horihiro Mitomo’s prints, enjoying the comforts of modern life and fitting right into the crowd. Sometimes, samurai also feels frustrated and helpless when chewing gum sticks on his crossover high-end sneakers.
Horihiro Mitomo’s work not only elicits laugh, but also communicates and resonates with the viewer. Collaborating with K11 which aims to promote contemporary art and pop culture, his artworks further enhance public’s understanding on ukiyo-e.
Segment 2: World Premiere Exhibition of ‘Salaryman’ and ‘Drunk Salaryman’
The 2019 Japanese TV drama Watashi, Teiji de Kaerimasu (I’m Leaving On-Time), depicting the trials and tribulations of office life in Japan, has been an instant hit across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, demonstrating increasing public concern over the everyday life of the office worker. Depictions of everyday life has always been one of ukiyo-e’s major themes, and it should come as no surprise that modern ukiyo-e finds inspiration in the topic of office life.
Former office worker Ukiyoemon Mitomoya’s signature “Salaryman” series is on exhibit, showing the plight of the office worker in humorous and sometimes surreal ways. Japan’s popular gacha capsules serve as metaphor for office cubicles, trapping the suit-wearing samurai in its closed confined space, until he finally gets off work and springs out energetically from his little capsule, the winding key on his back representing how he is once again full of energy. At first glance, the work elicits a laugh; on second glance, it invites the viewer to think more deeply into the meaning of office life.
In addition to ‘Salaryman’, the exhibit features the world premiere of ‘Drunk Salaryman’. It is a collaborative effort among Horihiro Mitomo, Ukiyoemon Mitomoya, Horitatsu and Bang Ganji, which is based on Ukiyoemon Mitomoya’s ‘Salaryman’. Ukiyo-e ‘documents’ fly up from a briefcase in a funnel-shaped ‘office tornado’, which echoes with the emptied beer cans. The artwork serves as a metaphor for the drunken Salaryman after a stressful working day, which brings public attention to the stress that many face at work.
Segment 3: Anime and Manga Culture in an Ukiyo-e World
To many, anime and manga serve as their refuge from the relentless stress of office life – one of the reasons why the anime boom has taken the world by storm. For the younger generation, anime and manga are more than simply pop culture – they are an indispensable part of life, the exhibiting artists have introduced anime and manga elements into their ukiyo-e artworks.
Horihiro Mitomo’s works bear particular mention. His ‘Baki the Grappler-themed’ ukiyo-e mural shows characters from the popular manga in Japan, which has been exhibited in Shinjuku JR Station in Japan. This is the first appearance of the original mural outside Japan – an occasion not to be missed.
Meanwhile, Ukiyoemon Mitomoya’s samurai wear Doraemon and Pikachu-themed robes with their traditional martial attire, a humorous merger of two cultural forces. Perhaps his samurai will call on some fantastic item from Doraemon’s pocket, or strike with Pikachu’s lightning, in the same way that warriors of yore wore images of powerful beasts in the hope of gaining some of their strength.
Segment 4: Yokai in a Modern World
If anime and manga are the constant companions of Japan’s younger generation, then yokai are the childhood dreams that pop up in the middle of the night when one least expects it. The Japanese word “yokai” encompasses many supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore, from benevolent and adorable little fairies, to human-like ghosts and creatures, to fearsome man-eating demons and monsters. While some of them undoubtedly provide a rich repository for horror movies, others are believed to bring luck and happiness, and they have inspired many anime, manga and games for all ages, including “Spirited Away” and “Yo-kai Watch”.
Bang Ganji has always had a fascination for yokai tales, and he is bringing his gang of yokai to K11, including famous ones like Karakasa-kozo (Umbrella Ghost) and Hitotsume-kozo (One-eye Boy).
Here in the modern world, Bang Ganji’s yokai have adapted modern ways, doing modern things like skateboarding, dancing and fashion shopping. After all, you’ve got to be cool, even in the yokai world!
Segment 5: Street Art and Skateboarding with Ukiyo-e
In addition to anime, manga and yokai, street art is also a popular theme in modern culture. Skateboards are a particularly popular expression, with brands such as Supreme and Bape releasing their own stylish skateboards. Horitatsu substitutes skateboard for canvas, depicting mythical characters like Kintaro, Unryukuro, and Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru from Naruto, and on stylish skateboards for a different kind of crossover experience.
Segment 6: Limited-Quantity Ukiyo-e Art Derivatives
In addition to artwork, ukiyo-e art derivatives are available at the chi K11 art space. Ukiyo-e fans can buy items designed and created by the four ukiyo-e masters, and even have their portrait painted in ukiyo-e style live upon purchase of ukiyo-e vinyl fish!
Other programmes: The Complete Japanese Experience
K11 is holding multiple cultural events in conjunction with “K11 Art Matsuri” Ukiyo-e Art Exhibition, including artist dialogues at SALON11, showing of Yurugu Matsumoto’s award-winning short film at MOVIE11, and a music programme musik11. Numerous K11 merchants will also feature products from Japan, allowing you to experience Japanese culture from every angle.
“K11 Art Matsuri” Ukiyo-e Art Exhibition
Exhibition Period: 7 June to 1 July 2019 10am to 10pm
Venue: chi K11 art space (B2/F, K11 Art Mall)