Monday, 2 January 2017

Fireworks .. a reminder of a Japanese collage artist, Kiyoshi Yamashita

Watching the wonderful firework display last night (on TV) from Hull, the 2017 City of Culture, I was immediately reminded of a very happy afternoon spent last January in Furuimachinami (Old town) Museum in Takayama, Japan, where I discovered collage artist, Kiyoshi Yamashita.
 This was one of those "purely by chance" moments ..  family had decided on a couple of hours' rest at the wonderful Tanabe Ryokan, a traditional Japanese style hotel where we were staying for two nights, but I was determined to make the most of our time in Takayama and ventured out into the snowy streets,finding the little museum nearby.With  my limited Japanese I couldn't really understand much from the labels but the pictures spoke for themselves! No photos allowed in the museum, but I'm now enjoying revisiting Yamashita's pictures in the exhibition catalogue.
Born in 1922 in Tokyo,  he suffered a serious illness at the age of 3 leaving him with brain damage. His mother eventually sent him to a special school in Chiba. He started making pictures using torn paper and his talent was recognised by a mental health expert who arranged for his work to be exhibited in Osaka. He ran away from the institution in 1940, aged 18,  avoiding recruitment into the Japanese Army,and wandering around the country clothed only a vest, but making collage pictures known in Japan as Chigiri-e using scraps of paper, food wrappers, stamps and even bank notes ..and was given food and hospitality in exchange for his work. His life story was the subject of a film called The Naked General for this reason.
Kiyoshi Yamashita became well known in Japan,through many exhibitions,  the first being at the famous Daimaru department store in Tokyo in 1956 and this show toured 130 towns in Japan.but I wonder how many others have heard of him? As a collage artist myself I'm always interested to see this type of work and who knows if I may have gained some inspiration for new work, even if it has not yet emerged!

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