Thursday, May 31, 2007



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Girl Friday She No Square...

I returned from Tokyo on the Shinkansen on Monday evening after spending 4 days in Japan's biggest city. Tokyo makes Osaka look tiny, even though it is not. It was quite overwhelming yet I had an enjoyable time there.

Design Festa was really not much to speak of, and despite there being a couple of artists whose work interested me, I was not really impressed with the event itself.

An exhibition that was most impressive however, was one I saw at the Ueno Royal Museum, which featured the works of two contemporary Japanese artists - Makoto Aida and Akira Yamaguchi. I went to see this exhibition on the suggestion made to me by fellow Australian artist living in Japan, Marcel Cousins, and I was not disappointed. Although I was not awestruck by every piece on show, I was most impressed with the exhibition as a whole. Many of the works, by both artists, possessed such fine detail and a number of the larger scale works by Makoto Aida had me captured in front of the canvas for long periods.

Whilst in Tokyo, the work of South African born artist, Marlene Dumas, was brought to my attention. Though I admit to knowing nothing about this artist prior to my visit to Tokyo, I have since looked into her work and career with the help of the World Wide Web and find myself rather intrigued.

I spent my last day in Tokyo on my own, exploring Asakusa and enjoying a bit of the more 'traditional Japan'...and remembering how rewarding travelling alone can be.

Overall, the trip to Tokyo was an inspiring one. And I must say, those Harajuku girls are something else.

I am due to fly home to Melbourne next week and although I will miss Japan, I am looking forward to creating a fresh new space in which to paint.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Early Impressions

One exhibition that I really enjoyed was Masterpieces from Musee Guimet at the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art in Tennoji. My friend Chika took me along to see it last Saturday.

The exhibition showcased a large selection of ukiyo-e masterpieces, (woodblock prints from the Edo period in Japan), from the collection of the Musee Guimet in Paris. It featured 190 works and included artists such as Toshusai Sharaku, Utagawa Hiroshige, Suzuki Harunobu, and one of my favourite artists, Hokusai Katsushika, who was a big part of my initial fascination with Japanese art and culture. His work, and the work of other Edo artists, actually influenced a number of my early paintings.

Seeing the original works of Hokusai and many others from the Edo period was quite mind blowing, considering some of the works dated back to the 1700's.

The exhibition was possibly the most crowded one I have ever been to, but despite having to battle with the hoards of people to get a good look at each piece, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these finely detailed and most impressive works in the flesh.

The rain falls continuously in Osaka as I prepare to travel to Tokyo.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bright Lights Big City

Such is Osaka at night.

Tomorrow, however, I am visiting a bigger, brighter city. I am planning on riding the shinkansen to Tokyo and despite my recent craving for nature and wilderness, I am actually looking forward to seeing what this massive city of neon has to offer. I'm also hoping to explore a few galleries whilst I am there, as well as visiting Design Festa.

I have been to a few galleries/art spaces here in Osaka over this past week, some of the spaces have been quite impressive, yet I still feel this city lacks some sort of vibe when it comes to art. That's not to say that Osaka hasn't produced any talent, for there is plenty of that, I just feel it lacks an avenue to really encourage and promote it to its full potential. It's no wonder so many local artists relocate to Tokyo or even abroad.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dream a Little Dream

I borrowed J's new bike today and whilst out riding, I came across this sign. I slowed right down as I passed it and laughed out loud. There were only a few people around and I am not sure whether they even noticed my amusement, or what had caused it, but I do live in an area where many people mutter to themsleves and randomly laugh out loud so I doubt my outburst was anything unusual. Perhaps the fact that I was a gaijin was the only thing a little different from normal - though I think it would be quite understandable that any gaijin who lived in this particular area of Osaka for too long might just go a little, let's say, loopy - for want of a better word....and meant in the nicest way possible.

I did not have the camera with me at the time, so I had to ride back there to capture the image in digital form. Whilst doing so, a few locals walked past and seemed a little confused as to why I was taking this particular shot. If only they knew... mind you, it's probably better that they don't or didn't.

I, however, found it worthy of a photo and even a place in my blog. It made me smile, and I see a lot of things in this area that don't so I appreciated this random lighthearted moment.

I think perhaps Henry Miller would have found it amusing too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mysterious Ways

I finished my two pieces for the SQUARED exhibition today and sent them off to Greenhill Galleries in Perth. The language barrier always poses a bit of a challenge at the post office here, however, the staff are always friendly and patient... at least whilst I am in the post office...

From what I could understand, of what the lady was trying to explain to me, standard air mail postage is more expensive than EPS express air mail postage. Odd. Why would one choose to pay more for a delivery service that takes longer?

It's a mystery to me.

Japan is full of such little mysteries and curiosities. I will miss many random things about this place.

Every day I see something that makes me want to go home, and I 'll also see something that makes me want to stay. Japan is funny that way, and I think it just might always have some sort of hold on me.

The Kamogawa Odori

Yesterday J and I went to Kyoto, one of my favourite places in the world...thus far.

I always manage to get a boost of inspiration when I visit that place and yesterday was no exception.

Whilst meandering through Gion, we stumbled upon a small theatre with a number of people lined up for an event that looked as though it would be starting soon. We then saw a poster advertising the Geisha dances of Spring. How fortunate, we thought, and decided to enquire if there were any tickets still available for this performance. There were, up the back of course, but the theatre was small enough to be able to enjoy the performance no matter where you were seated.

The particular dance we saw was 'The Kamogawa Odori', apparently the most famous of the Spring dances, and one that has been performed in the Pontocho district of Gion since 1872.

As my understanding of the Japanese language is not that advanced, I was unable to follow the story entirely, however, visually the performance was stunning, and I was able to find out plenty of information about that particular dance, and story, on the internet.

The second half of the performance was a series of dances representing a selection from the 11th century Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

It was incredibly beautiful and I am so glad I got to witness one of these performances before returning home.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I've Got To Keep On Moving

I did a live telephone interview on ABC Radio Australia this morning which heard me voice some of the things I have been silently thinking over the past few weeks. To most listeners, it was just an interview with an artist, living and working in Osaka, Japan, which is exactly what it should have sounded like. To me, however, hearing myself voice some of these thoughts made my head spin for the rest of the day.

I feel 'almost' ready to head back to Australia.

Living overseas had been a dream of mine for a long time, and in more recent years, (since my first visit here in 2003), Japan became the destination of choice for that dream.

When I moved here earlier this year, I did not know exactly what I was expecting, just that I wanted to experience life in another culture and also spend more time in this country that I had visited only briefly on two occasions, one that had fascinated me for a number of years. I also wanted to paint over here. To make art in the country that has so heavily inspired my work for the past 6 years. I have done these things.

Although the initial plan was to spend at least a full 12 months over here, I feel as though I am ready to see what's next. For a new dream?

There is no rule that says I have to stay here 12 months in order to achieve or fulfill my dream of living and painting overseas. The majority of my time here has been spent making art. Living here as opposed to being a tourist has also allowed me to see another side of Japan other than the fantastical one that I first saw in Kyoto. There is a lot of beauty here, but also a lot of ugliness... it is the same almost anywhere I guess, but I am grateful to have had enough time here to see both sides. "How does one find inspiration in a city that is not so inspiring?"was one of the questions asked of me today.

There is good and bad in everything I guess. This was not my answer, in fact, I cannot even remember my exact response. I do however remember talking about the fact that one of the beauties of art, and perhaps a skill, is to be able to turn something ugly into something beautiful - to see, or at least search for, the beauty in everything, or at least in most things.

I'm a big believer in 'timing'. And, although I feel a little in two minds about going home so soon, (half way through writing this blog entry, I confirmed my return flight home in early June), I feel that I will be leaving here WITH inspiration... not staying so long that I risk losing it. This may not make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.

I will miss Japan when I get home, and I think that is a good thing. Also, living in Japan has taught me a lot about myself, and taught me to appreciate home and many other things, and people a lot more, and THAT is an even better thing.

So... I have lived out that particular dream. I have achieved what I set out to do. I have experienced something amazing. And, I have been fortunate enough to have the freedom to pursue, and in a sense, control this dream. There have been no rules other than my own.

I read the following quote yesterday and it rang so true for me.

"Most people are not free. Freedom, in fact, frightens them. They follow patterns set by their parents, enforced by society, by their terrors of 'they say' and 'what will they think?' and by a constant inner dialogue that weighs duty against desire and pronounces duty the winner." - Erica Jong (forward from the Henry Miller book, Sexus)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Henry Miller

I have been a reader and fan of Anais Nin's work for a number of years now. I was aware of her association with Henry Miller but up until now had not read anything of his. I know a few people who feel you should like either one or the other, but not both. I have heard people say a similar thing about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, (I own works by both of them), Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. I find this a strange attitude to have, regardless of who they were as people, or how miserable or wonderful their relationships were, they were all passionate creators of their craft. I can understand someone liking the work of one more than the work of their lover, but to suggest that you can not enjoy both, that you must choose between the two - like taking sides - seems ludicrous to me. Especially when someone has not even read the work of the person they are criticising.

I want to copy this excerpt from Miller's book, Sexus, here, so that I can re-read it whenever I like. Not to say that I agree with everything that is written, but I certainly find it interesting and thought provoking.

He went on after a moment's reflection: 'Now painting is a little different, to my way of thinking. It takes more to appreciate a good painting than to appreciate a good book. People seem to think that because they know how to read and write they can tell a good book from a bad one. Even writers, good writers, I mean, aren't in agreement about what is good and what is bad. Neither are painters about paintings, for that matter. And yet I have the notion that in general painters are more in accord about the merits or lack of merits in the work of well-known painters than writers are with respect to writing. Only a half-asses painter would deny the value of Cezanne's work, for instance. But take the case of Dickens or of Henry James, and see what astounding differences of opinion there are among capable writers and critics as to their respective merits. If there were a writer today as bizarre in his realm as Picasso is in his you'd soon see what I'm driving at. Even if they don't like his work, most people who know anything about art agree that Picasso is a great genius. Now take Joyce, who's fairly eccentric as a writer, has he gained anything like the prestige of Picasso? Except for a scholarly few, except for the snobs who try to keep up with everything, his reputation, such as it is today, stands largely on the fact that he's a freak. His genius is admitted, i agree, but it's tainted, so to speak. Picasso commands respect, even if he isn't always understood. But Joyce is something of a butt; hs fame increases precisely because he can't be generally understood. He's accepted as a freak, a phenomenon, like the Cardiff Giant....And another thing, while I'm at it - no matter how daring the painter of genius may be, he's far more quickly assimilated than a writer of the same caliber. At the most, it takes thirty to forty years for a revolutionary painter to be accepted; it takes a writer centuries sometimes......'

'........Well supposing you say to yourself - the hell with becoming an artist, I know I am one, I'll just be it - what then? What does it mean, to be an artist? Does it mean that you have to write books or make pictures? That's secondary, I take it - that's the mere evidence of the fact that you are one....Supposing, Henry, you had written the greatest book ever written and you lost the manuscript just after you had completed it? And supposing nobody knew that you had been writing this great book, not even your closest friend? In that case you'd be just where I am who haven't put a stroke on paper, wouldn't you? If we were both to die suddenly, at that point, the world would never know that either of us was an artist. I would have had a good time of it and you would have wasted your whole life.'
At this point Ulric couldn't stand it any longer. 'It's just the contrary', he protested. 'An artist doesn't enjoy life by evading his task. You're the one who would be wasting his life. Art isn't a solo performance; it's a symphony in the dark with millions of participants and millions of listeners. The enjoyment of a beautiful thought is nothing to the joy of giving it expression - permanent expression. In fact, it's almost a sheer impossibility to refrain from giving expression to a great thought. We're only instruments of a greater power. We're creators by permission, by grace, as it were. No one creates alone, of and by himself. An artist is an instrument that registers something already existent, something which belongs to the whole world and which, if he is an artist, he is compelled to give back to the world. To keep one's beautiful ideas to oneself would be like being a virtuoso and sitting in an orchestra with hands folded. You couldn't do it! As for that illustration you gave, of an author losing his life's work in manuscript, why I'd compare such a person to a wonderful musician who had been playing with the orchestra all the time, only in another room, where nobody heard him. But that wouldn't make him any the less a participant, nor would it rob him of the pleasure to be had in following the orchestra leader or hearing the music which his instrument gave forth. The greatest mistake you make is in thinking that enjoyment is something unearned, that if you know you can play the fiddle, well, it's just the same as playing it. It's so silly that I don't know why I bother to discuss it. As for the reward, you're always confusing recognition with reward. They're two different things. Even if you don't get paid for what you do, you at least have the satisfaction of doing. It's a pity we lay such emphasis on being paid for our labors - it really isn't necessary, and nobody knows it better than the artist. The reason why he has had such a miserable time of it is because he elects to do his work gratuitously. He forgets, as you say, that he has to live. But that's really a blessing. It's much better to be preoccupied with wonderful ideas than with the next meal, or the rent, or a pair of new shoes. Of course when you get to the point where you must eat, and you haven't anything to eat, then to eat becomes and obsession. But the difference between an artist and the ordinary individual is that when the artist does get a meal he immediately falls back into his own limitless world, and while he's in that world he's a king, whereas your ordinary duffer is just a filling station with nothing in between but dust and smoke. And even supposing you're not an ordinary chap, but a wealthy individual, one who can indulge his tastes, his whims, his appetites: do you suppose for one minute that millionaire enjoys food or wine or women like a hungry artist does? To enjoy anything you have to make yourself ready to receive it; it implies a certain control, discipline, chastity, I might even say. Above all, it implies desire, and desire is something you have to nourish by right living. I'm speaking now as if I were an artist, and I'm not really. I'm just a commercial illustrator, but I do know enough about it to say that I envy the man who has the courage to be an artist - I envy him because I know that he's infinitely richer than any other kind of human being. He's richer because he spends himself, because he gives himself all the time, and not just labor or money or gifts. You couldn't possibly be an artist, in the first place, because you lack faith. You couldn't possibly have beautiful ideas because you kill them off in advance. You deny what it takes to make beauty, which is love, love of life itself, love of life for its own sake. You see the flaw, the worm, in everything. An artist, even when he detects a flaw, makes it into something flawless, if I may put it that way. He doesn't try to pretend that a worm is a flower or an angel, but he incorporates the worm into something bigger. He knows that the world isn't full of worms, even if he sees a million or a billion of them. You see a tiny worm and you say - "Look, see how rotten everything is!" You can't see beyond the worm....Well, excuse me, I didn't mean to put it so caustically or so personally. But I hope you see what I'm driving at....'

- excerpt from Henry Miller's 'Sexus' (1949), the first book of the 'Rosy Crucifixion' trilogy.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Long Overdue

I started painting again yesterday. Well, technically, I started 'painting' today. Yesterday saw me plan the two new small works I have been asked to submit for a group exhibition at Greenhill Galleries in Perth next month.

I have not painted or even really done much drawing since I returned to Osaka on April 17. That is a long time away from my love. The recess was part voluntary and part involuntary, the latter due to recent dissolution toward the commercial art world, or at least a small part of it, the afore mentioned was just a bit of R and R after my exhibition. I'll take just one R from the standard: 'Rest and Relaxation'... the other R must stand for Reflect.

How 3 weeks can fly! Time to get back into what I love and what is a necessity for me - making art.

Thanks to recent dealings with people who have restored some of my faith in the commercial art world, and a few certain literary works that have restored my determination and, in a strange sense, offered empathy, (particularly an excerpt from Henry Miller's 'Sexus' that J read me the other day), my inspiration has been re-fuelled and I am ready for the next creative journey.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Osaka is not a city that inspires - fortunately, however, it is surrounded by places that do.

In need of some inspiration and a taste of the 'old-world' Japan, the best part of yesterday was spent in Nara; a 45 minute train ride from home. It was most enjoyable to get out of Osaka and see some 'green', some nature - which is one thing this industrial, concrete city lacks.

Nara is home to six impressive Buddhist temples, a Shinto shrine and Heijō Palace, which was the Imperial Palace of Japan from 710-784 AD. Just thinking about these dates and this country's extensive religious and cultural history amazes me, especially coming from such a young country like Australia.

Nara is also well known for the free roaming, tame deer, found throughout the temple grounds and parkland. According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god, Takemikazuchi, arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Deers were regarded as heavenly animals and thought to protect the city, and the country.

I am developing a fascination for Japanese folklore, particularly those that feature animals with supernatural powers. I shall be curious to see if this interest sprouts inspiration that influences my work in the near future.

Speaking of inspirational writings, Haruki Murakami's new novel, 'After Dark', was released on Tuesday and I am yet to get my hands on a copy. I had planned to race down to the bookstore yesterday, however, I have been distracted by the work of another writer. I recently purchased a copy of Soseki Natsume's 'I Am a Cat', a book I have been wanting to read for quite some time. Though not far in to its 638 pages, it has already begun to delight me, and after a literary lull since arriving in Japan, it is nice to be able to get lost in the world of words again.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Something Old, Something New

It's raining here today in Osaka. Raining like it has no intention of stopping any time soon. I don't mind it either; in fact the sound is rather soothing and peaceful given the heavy mood in the apartment.

Relationships are funny things... and Japan is a funny place. Strange at times, for a girl like me.

I have been a little disheartened of late; artistic inspiration has not come easy or not come at all since I arrived back here on April 17. There has been a lot going on in my relationship and career that has caused even more to be going on inside my head. It's busier up there than usual at the moment, and it's hardly ever quiet.

The city here itself was starting to weigh me down in some ways, not that I am ungrateful for this whole experience, but I felt I had to remove myself from it for a day and get out into some kind of wilderness if that was possible.

On Thursday we travelled to Koyasan and hiked an ancient pilgrimage route that saw us on foot for over 21km. Mount Koya is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, a Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, who is one of the most significant figures in Japan's religious history. The walk was a strain physically at times, as there were a number of steep sections, both uphill and downhill, the latter being more of a strain. Mentally however, it was clarifying and somewhat relaxing. It allowed me to remember some of the reasons I fell in love with this place and re-united me with some aspects of my initial 'Japanese-born' inspiration. Whilst walking, not only was I put in touch with every part of my body and used parts of my lungs that I had not used in a long time, I also felt re-connected to the spiritual side of Japan's rich history that has intrigued me so much in the past.

I started this blog entry at 10:46am. It is now 6:08pm. I have been outside, walked in the rain, eaten at Maman macrobiotic kitchen - one of the few 'healthier' options in eating venues we have found thus far in this city of fast and fried food. I am sure there are other places scattered amongst the thousands of varied clothing stores, that sell everything from 5 dollar diamante clad t-shirts with bad English translations to Chanel and Louis Vuitton. This city's 'culture' is very much one of shopping and eating, not so much one that embraces or supports an active art scene. Actually, from my experience thus far, the art scene here is all but dead - if it ever existed in the first place. There are a number of small galleries and art hangs in various little cafes around town, but I must say, despite my current disillusionment in regards to commercial galleries back home, being here has given me a greater appreciation for Australia's art scene as a whole - which to me at least seems ever evolving and somewhat dynamic as opposed to a rather stagnant one here. Perhaps with more investigation I shall find myself pleasantly surprised, but I am not holding my breath. I am however looking forward to visiting Tokyo later this month. Yesterday I received an invitation and complimentary tickets to Design Festa, which I had planned to go to anyway. It will be held in Tokyo on the 26th and 27th of this month. Design Festa claims to be Asia's biggest international art event. It began in 1994 and is held twice a year, showcasing artists from all over the world. I'd planned to get a booth but ran out of time, not to mention ran out of work due to other commitments.

Despite having travelled to Japan 4 times now, I am yet to visit Tokyo. I have spent most of my time in Kyoto, and now Osaka, so I am sure it will be an experience where I will see yet another side to Japan.

For now though, the rain continues to fall in the city of Osaka.