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6 Contemporary Japanese Artists Who Are Taking the Art World by Storm

 

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Japan has a long and colorful history of artistic innovation. During the Edo period, it became the birthplace of ukiyo-e—a style of woodblock print that’s still influential today. Japan is also home to beloved artforms like origami, Ikebana, and kintsugi. Throughout the post-war era and beyond, the country continued to be a hotspot for new artistic genres and styles, from Gutai to manga. And today, Japan is still bursting full of creative energy. Contemporary Japanese artists aren’t just making waves in the Eastern world though—they’re also taking the Western art world by storm.

Here are six contemporary Japanese artists you should know.

 

Chiharu Shiota

 

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Installation artist Chiharu Shiota explores feelings of anxiety, silence, and memory through her large-scale works. She uses thousands of black, red, or white threads, carefully strung and interwoven together to cover entire rooms. Her “webs” often have objects embedded within them, such as keys and shells, as well as larger items like chairs and even boats. Her complex thread systems allude to the interior of the body as well as the neural connections in the brain. While walking through the exhibition space, Shiota hopes her viewers will be inspired to explore “ideas that can be as complex as the tangled yarn itself.”

Chiharu Shiota: Website | Instagram | Twitter

 

Takashi Murakami

From smiling flowers to stylized characters, Takashi Murakami’s cheerful motifs are recognizable all over the world. He’s the founder of the artistic movement Superflat, a style characterized by bold outlines, flat colors, and a lack of perspective and depth. Murakami renders his art in this “flat” style in order to reference the shallowness of Western consumerist culture. Often referred to as “the Warhol of Japan,” he explores the West's ever-growing influence on Japan's contemporary culture. He’s collaborated with fashion brands such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, as well as famous musicians, including Billie Eilish and Kanye West.

Takashi Murakami: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 

Yoshitomo Nara

Tokyo-based artist Yoshitomo Nara first gained recognition during Japan’s Pop Art movement in the 1990s and has since had almost 40 solo exhibitions worldwide. He’s known for his paintings of children and animals that appear both innocent and menacing at the same time. His subjects often hold weapons, like knives or saws. However, they were never intended to be aggressors. “Look at them, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys. Do you think they could fight with those?” he says. “I don't think so. Rather, I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives…”

Yoshitomo Nara: Instagram | Twitter

 

Yasumasa Morimura

Appropriation artist Yasumasa Morimura is famous for borrowing images and figures from history and recreating them with his own face and body. He uses extensive props, costumes, makeup, and digital tools to transform himself into notable subjects from Western culture, as well as figures of post-war Japan. His satirical self-portraits explore themes of race, sexuality, and gender by challenging the perceptions of Asian male identity.

Throughout his career, Morimura has created and exhibited hundreds of his “self-portraits.” He’s disguised himself as famous artists including Frida Kahlo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Magritte, Dali, and many more.

Yasumasa Morimura: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 

Aya Takano

Aya Takano is a Japanese Superflat artist, manga artist, and science fiction writer. She belongs to Murakami’s collective, Kaikai Kiki, which means “brave, strong and sensitive.” The Tokyo- and Kyoto-based artist’s work certainly evokes this message. Takano’s whimsical cartoon-style paintings feature female protagonists who explore uncharted territories, as well as their own sexuality.

As a child growing up in the city of Saitama, Takano immersed herself in comic books and became inspired by manga cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka. “When I was a kid, I daydreamed and stayed in my fantasy land by reading books and mangas all the time,” she says. “I hated most designs of devices and buildings and I still do. I aspired to freedom of spirit and I was very different from others. I still want to be like that.”

Takano is also inspired by erotic paintings from the Edo period, Renaissance religious imagery, Gustav Klimt, and western culture.

Aya Takano: Facebook | Instagram

 

Yayoi Kusama

 

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Of course, our list of contemporary Japanese artists wouldn’t be complete without Yayoi Kusama. She’s world-renowned for her colorful paintings, sculptures, performances, and installations that all have one thing in common—dots!

Her fixation on repeating dot patterns began when she was 10 years old. She started experiencing vivid hallucinations which she described as, “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots” which would come to life, multiply, and engulf her and her surroundings in a process she called “self-obliteration.” By covering surfaces and entire rooms in dots, Kusama attempts to recreate these hallucinations for her viewers.

Yayoi Kusama: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Related Articles:

6 Things You Should Know About Takashi Murakami, the Legendary Japanese Artist

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How Japanese Art Influenced and Inspired European Impressionist Artists

Gyotaku: The Traditional Japanese Art of Painting Marine Life with Actual Fish

Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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