Emily Allchurch, Diemar/Noble Photography, London. Until May 7,
In the twenty-first century, Japan is undoubtedly changed: its aging population, the breakdown of its social structure, rising unemployment and homelessness are grave concerns and the recent *earthquake and its on-going after effects will linger for many years to come. Until now, ordinary life in Japan has rarely featured in news coverage. Even Lost in Translation showed only a small glimpse of its urban side. The country, until Sky News revealed it in all its pain, misery and devastation, remained to many of us shrouded in inscrutable mystery.
Although the timing is entirely coincidental, yesterday, what might ironically be referred to as a very timely show opened in London. The blurb on the Diemar/Noble Gallery’s website informs us that Emily Allchurch’s Tokyo Story recreates ten of Hiroshige’s nineteenth century One Hundred Views of Edo, updating the series for a contemporary audience and recapturing Tokyo for future generations.
Hiroshige was a true craftsman and is renowned as a master printmaker, revered for his sensitivity of eye and the subtlety of his wood block technique. His prints convey an idyllic sense of peace and beauty, both of which are perhaps no longer entirely relevant.
Unfairly described as the Japanese Andy Warhol, Tadanori Yokoo, who rocketed to international fame in the 1960s, showed then and in later work, in his multi-layered imagery – influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa and the writer Yukio Mishima – that juxtaposed traditional Japanese prints, his own drawing and painting and advertising images, something of the darker side of modern Japan’s moral decline. Yokoo’s technique was as confident as, and could be compared equally with, Hiroshige’s.
Putting to one side its truly marvellous potential, technical dexterity is as important in using Photoshop as it is in cutting wood blocks, or patching images together on film to make separations for screen-printing. Allchurch’s images, the content of which may hint at valid points and be an accurate commentary on current Japanese life, sadly fail by her apparent lack of technical skill when seen alongside either Yokoo’s or indeed, Hiroshige’s.
* Since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, estimated, according to National Geographic, to have unleashed the power of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, we’ve all got used to calling tidal or killer waves tsunamis. 地震 is Japanese for earthquake – the spelling is only given in Japanese characters but if you want to hear what it sounds like click here: http://translate.google.com/#en|ja|Earthquake
Are there any more Hiroshige or Tadanoori Yokoo fans out there?
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