January 16, 2012

Thoughts on Art after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and the Transnational Art group exhibition

It is said that the tremendous energy release from the earthquake on March 11th, 2011 shifted the Japanese landmass 20 meters closer to North America, and altered both the earth’s axis and its rotation speed. I’d like to think that on that day Japan and the rest of the world were brought much closer together and changed in greater ways. Inspiring expressions of solidarity have come to us in Japan from every corner of the world, and people have come together to help those directly afflicted by the triple disaster in whatever capacity they can.

Following the disastrous events of that fateful spring day afternoon, I’ve been reflecting deeply on the role of art in the aftermath of such devastation, pain and suffering caused by a 9.0 earthquake, a 38 meter tsunami and the meltdown of multiple nuclear reactors. How does the artistic community contribute meaningfully to the reconstruction effort of not only the physical infrastructure of the country, but also to the mind and spirit of our society? What is the role of art following such a great disaster? Great debate and activity is taking place regarding this, I'd like to share my thoughts with you.

I believe the role of art is to lift up the spirits of the afflicted, for art is a place of healing for the mind and spirit. By looking at art we can enter a different world where the imagination soars and where the impossible becomes real. We may feel overburdened with life but for a moment we can experience a new world and feel something different. We can find inspiration in art to help us find strength to move forward and strive for better things. In art we can come face to face with our fears and desires, we can be confronted or comforted. Most importantly, through art we find expressions of hope for a better future.

At our gallery this year we had the great pleasure to work together with overseas-based artists committed and resolute in their solidarity with the Japanese art scene; among them Mark Goss and Ann-Marie James (in collaboration with Jamie Goodenough's HeadSpace Studio in Nara) Jack Sal, Sambuu Zayazaikhan, Gabriel Leung and Peter Musters. We worked hand-in-hand with gallerists Edson and Helena Cardoso of Helsinki’s AVA Galleria and Ryoko Kitamura at Contemporary Art Space Osaka (CASO) to bring a collection of over 50 paintings and sculptures by 20 Finnish artists including Kaisu Lundelin and a special performance by Kirsti Pitk√§nen and Heikki Korkalainen this past september at CASO. Throughtheir efforts all these artists and gallerists kept open a direct and important conduit to Japan in the days, weeks and months after the events of March 11th and added to the commendable work already underway by Japan-based local and foreign artists, galleries and cultural institutions.

From its very inception in early 2008, TRANSNATIONAL ART has been a collaborative effort between artists, gallerists and curators of diverse national, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The breaking down of these barriers allow for a richness in artistic disciplines, media, themes, perspectives and approaches to art-making to create the foundation for the exhibition. The artists have been rigorously selected based upon the strength of their body of work, the plurality of issues and themes they explore, their techniques, experience and their potential.

Because of this comprehensive collection of art a rather important element takes shape within this exhibition. Through their work each artist provides us with a mirror in which to behold ourselves and simultaneously create windows in which to peer into the possibilities of their worlds.

This fourth edition of the exhibition is our strongest yet and carries with it an added meaning as a very palpable expression of solidarity between artists at a time of great distress.

Having witnessed first hand the far reaching impact of the triple disaster on Japan and the world, it’s no surprise that every artist in this exhibition has been affected by it in different ways. For some it meant the sudden alteration or cancelation of projects and exhibitions, for others it cemented their resolve to provide a sense of continuity, stability and solidarity with the people of Japan. For many it has provided inspiration or influence visible in their work, while for others it’s a much more internal affair, leading to contemplative works imbued with the resilience of the Japanese spirit. However, most importantly, for all of this year’s participating artists the effects of The Great Tohoku Earthquake have strengthened the bonds between them, regardless of national boundaries, distance or language; to stand together in these very trying times.

It is encouraging to no small degree therefore to see that in spite of the calamities suffered, be they a crippling economic crisis, the aftermath of cataclysmic events or sudden geo-political change, like-minded individuals will come together in unity and provide a world for our minds and spirits to seek in refuge, inspiration, resolve, love and hope.

It is thus with great pleasure that I’d like to welcome you to TRANSNATIONAL ART 2012 at the Osaka Contemporary Art Center, and invite you to enjoy the works we have lovingly prepared for you. On behalf of everyone involved with the show, I’d like to thank you personally for taking the time to visit the exhibition, and hope that you walk away having enjoyed it.

Celio H. Barreto, Owner & Director, SoHo Art Gallery


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