A contemporary Japanese art

GRAPHIC work

A contemporary Japanese art

A poster coonveys varied meanings to a viewer but what fascinates a graphic designer is, “To contain the whole universe on a single sheet of paper,” in the words of Shin Matsunaga, one of the five Japanese graphic designers, whose work is on display as part of the exhibition,  ‘Contemporary Japanese Posters’.

The posters were composed between 1980 and 1990, the period known as Bubble Economy in Japan. It was a time when business was flourishing and various enterprises invested a lot of money on advertising and publicity, which allowed the graphic designers to try different designs.

This is reflected in the works of artists along with an impression of the increase in awareness towards environmental problems and signs of globalisation that had started becoming visible by then.

Divided into three parts, the exhibition showcases graphic posters designed by 15 Japanese artists. The first part displays five works each of five artists namely- Kiyoshi Awazu, Shigeo Fukuda, Yusaku Kamekura, Mitsuo Katsui and Shin Matsunaga.

A number of posters were created for international meetings and expositions such as the ones titled ‘Japan Inter Design Conference- Hiroshima Renaissance’ by Awazu, ‘World Design Expo’89’ by Kamekura and Katsui, and ‘JAGDA Poster Exhibition Japan 1988’ by Matsunaga.

What catches the attention of the eye is Awazu’s poster titled ‘Juraku’ and ‘The Festival of Japanese Contemporary Theatre’. Both evoke the artists thought that “the town is our art museum”. But the later particularly excels in symbolising the dynamism of the theatre festival with a elements of performing arts encapsulated in one place.

Fukuda’s work, on the other hand, give an optical illusion and shows how the artist plays with the final touch of putting his signature. His work titled ‘Japan-Joconde’ is a masterpiece with Monalisa created with a collection of more than two thousand stamps graphically.

The posters also display social conditions of Japan, especially through the works of Kamekura whose interpretation of ‘Hiroshima Appeals’ is depicted through butterflies falling from the sky after their wings catch fire! The artist feels that, “Contemporary Japanese graphic designs are devoid of its traditional cultural richness,” but his work makes the viewer realise the apathy of Hiroshima attack.

Kamekura shares in his note, “What is interesting and fascinating about graphic design is that people of different tongues and habits can easily understand the designers’ intensions and have a closeness to them.”

An emotion that is evoked by his poster designed for ‘JADGA Poster Exhibition Japan’ which shows a man behind bars with the slogan ‘Man is Born Free’!

However, the poster with the name ‘Hiroshima Appeals’ designed by Katsui, depicts a one-winged angel in dark, as if rendering the  social conditions of Japan at that time. His work titled Zero is in complete contrast with a flood of vibrant colours!

A league apart from the four above is Matsunaga who makes sure that a viewer can read between the lines in posters designed by him. ‘Be it Rights of Humankind’ or ‘EN Masayuki Takekawa’. The latter uses traditional Japanese technique of applying colour to copper in the copper-alloy tableware series.

This part of exhibition is on display till June 6 at The Japan Foundation.

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