Japanning / Nurimono

This is some of the work made on residency in Japan at Headspace Gallery Nara 2010

Traditional lacquered objects are called ‘nurimono’ meaning ‘coated things’. I started Japanning – the european term for imitation lacquerwork.

On a previous trip to Japan, amongst the beauty, I was struck by the amount of disposable plastic I saw used, and the ambivalence I felt about it as a material – colourful, super-shiny, but deadly, clogging the seas and lasting forever. Visit any 100yen store, and you are faced with a sea of disposable plastic items, their flat colour and shiny surfaces seeming to strive for immortality. It has the capacity to be a super material but it can have horrific implications for nature.

In Japan, older architecture is made out of wood, and paper, whereas modern buildings are often made from cheap materials and aren’t built to last. Ancient palaces, temples and shrines often burn down and are re-created on the site of their remains. Much Japanese symbolism focuses on the passage of time, the ephemeral nature of things, while retaining a Shinto belief that spirits remain, and the Buddhist idea of rebirth.

As a result of these experiences, I have been looking at archetypal Japanese icons symbolic of time and mortality – the temple, the rising sun, the mountain, and the cherry blossom. But I have also introduced a sense of  ambivalence by coating them in plastic colour. I have also been very influenced by CGI and experimental anime, mixing real and hyperreal, high and low culture in my use of colour and cartoon lines, transforming found objects, and natural forms into digital age icons.