Japanese Outsider Artists showcase work in the UK for the first time

[This story was published on July 08 on the Chichester Observer website. Read the original story at chichester.co.uk/news/japanese-outsider-artists-showcase-work-in-the-uk-for-the-first-time-1-7516562.]

[All images: Pallant House Gallery]

Koji Nishioka, Musical Score 9, 37 x 26 cm, Ink on paper
Koji Nishioka, Musical Score 9, 37 x 26 cm, Ink on paper

Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery has opened its Nama Ato: Japanese Outsider Art exhibition, showcasing the work of three artists for the first time in the UK.

Featuring work by Koji Nishioka, Makoto Okawa and Yasuyuki Ueno, this exhibition highlights the variety in style, form, medium and palette between the work of the three Japanese Outsider Artists.

‘Outsider Art’ defines work created by artists outside of the conventional boundaries of official art culture, often referring to artists who struggle to access the art world due to disability.

Koji, Makoto and Yasuyuki have all been participants at Atelier Corners; a dedicated social welfare facility offering art activities in Japan.

The three artists featured in the exhibition have starkly different artistic styles.

Koji Nishioka’s ‘music score’ art works are mostly rendered in black and white and are copied directly from sheet music.

He has created more than 200 of these drawings, and as his astigmatism in his left eye has worsened, the musical scores have gradually shifted further to the right.

Jennifer Gilbert, the exhibition’s curator, said: “I particularly love black and white artwork, and it is interesting to see what people interpret in these works beyond the music scores. I think it looks like animals, like a cow, but other people have said they can see boats and submarines.”

Yasuyuki Ueno, Untitled 17, 2013, 55 x 40 cm, colouring pencil on paper
Yasuyuki Ueno, Untitled 17, 2013, 55 x 40 cm, colouring pencil on paper


Yasuyuki Ueno has created a series of drawings featuring clothes and models, and is inspired by his love of pretty and ‘kawaii’ things.

Jennifer said: “Yasuyuki is very interested in things that are pink and girly, and he loves high fashion. He likes to draw shoes and clothes in the way he would put together an outfit.”
“It highlights interesting questions about the role of gender in people’s work.”

Makoto Okawa worked in two and three dimensions, creating both brightly coloured paintings and ‘Makoots’, interesting doll figures created out of felt which illustrate a range of emotions.

Jennifer said: “People have been very drawn to the Makoots. “They have been saying that they’ve never seen anything like the dolls, and they have striking similarities to the paintings. The paintings have titles, whereas the makoots don’t.”

“You can see the colour drawing people from outside into the exhibition, and people are really engaging with it.”

Makoto Okawa, Makoot 66, H62 x W40 x D8cm, Wool
Makoto Okawa, Makoot 66, H62 x W40 x D8cm, Wool

Makoto unfortunately passed away at the age of 40 earlier this year.

Koji and Yasuyuki, along with Makoto’s mother, will be visiting the UK to experience the exhibition later this year.

The Nama Ato: Japanese Outsider Art showcase is a collaborative project from Outside In, a project which provides a platform for artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation, and Unlimited, a Southbank Centre driven festival which celebrates the artistic vision and originality of disabled artists.

The project uses public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional support from the British Council and the Japan Foundation.

After the exhibition at Pallant House Gallery ends on August 29, Nama Ato will tour to Southbank Centre in London, Tramway in Glasgow, and the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester.

To read Jennifer Gilbert’s blog on Makoto Okawa, visit www.selvedge.org/blog/?p=21357.
Find out more about the Nama Ato exhibition at pallant.org.uk/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/studio/nama-to-japanese-outsider-art.

Makoto Okawa, Red Man and White Man, 2007, 72 x 52 cm
Makoto Okawa, Red Man and White Man, 2007, 72 x 52 cm

About Emily Turner

By day, journalist. By night, postgraduate researcher and doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex, studying the medical humanities in the Victorian period. Occasional artist.

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