WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts opens this week!

  •        WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts is a vibrant, wide-ranging exhibition celebrating the variety within Japanese graphic arts.
  •        The show is curated by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, the team behind the Tokyo exhibition WAVE, held annually since 2018.
  •        Presenting the work of more than 60 contemporary Japanese artists, the London edition includes five emerging artists whose work appears for the first time in this touring exhibition.
  •        WAVE is the amalgamation of a diversity of voices representing a variety of styles and artistic backgrounds. Artists range in age from their early twenties to their late eighties.
  •        Press preview: Wednesday 5 July (09:00-12:00). Book your place by emailing press.office@japanhouselondon.uk
  •        Exhibition runs 6 July to 22 October 2023.
  •        Press images together with a full list of the exhibiting artists are available here

Discover the vibrancy and variety of Japanese graphic arts at WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts. Curated by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, the exhibition presents the work of 60 of Japan’s most significant graphic artists today, introducing many of them to the UK for the first time. An anthology of styles and stories, bridging the worlds of fine art, commercial illustration and counterculture, WAVE offers UK audiences a rare opportunity to fully experience the diversity of expression within Japanese graphic arts. 

The exhibition at Japan House London is inspired by WAVE, an annual exhibition that started in 2018 in Tokyo. Also curated by Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, the WAVE exhibition in Tokyo showcases 100 of Japan’s leading illustrators, graphic and contemporary artists. Of the 60 artists featured in the Japan House London iteration, five emerging artists are being presented as part of the WAVE touring exhibition for the first time: Utsunomiya Nao, Kakuda Mayu, Katō Takaaki, Nakajima Yūta and Yano Keiji.

Presenting an eclectic assembly of artists
WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts presents the work of artists who have emerged during multiple waves in the history of Japanese print culture since the late 20th century – their ages ranging from early twenties to late eighties. Tanaami Keiichi (b.1936) is known for his colourful images inspired by war, dreams and pop culture and has been active since the 1960s. The bold, humorous work of Yumura Teruhiko (b.1942) is associated with indie manga magazine GARO, first popular in the 1970s and ’80s. Works by younger artists include the photorealist stylings of Yukishita Mayu (b.1995), and the hyperrealist art of Tomozawa Kotao (b.1999). 

Art beyond category
Many works in the exhibition have qualities representative of popular genres of Japanese graphic art such as pop art, photorealism and heta-uma – the combination of two Japanese words meaning ‘bad, unskilled’ and ‘good’, – where something that appears bad, is actually, on closer inspection, good. However, WAVE moves beyond categories, instead responding to multiple positions and perspectives, in cheerful defiance of arbitrary distinctions. The work of actor-cum-artist Asano Tadanobu (of Marvel Studios fame) appears alongside that of tupera tupera, a husband-and-wife team who have illustrated some of Japan’s most popular children’s books. 

WAVE invites guests to delight in the chaos, colour and creativity of Japanese graphic arts and print culture. This exhibition is a rare opportunity for UK audiences to experience the variety of Japanese illustration and graphic arts, through the works of leading artists from diverse disciplines and generations. 

Simon Wright, Director of Programming at Japan House London, commented:

‘This exhibition of new works explores the perhaps surprising variety and anarchy of the world of illustration and graphic art in Japan. Of particular interest is the underground concept of heta-uma –literally ‘bad-good’ – whose first proponents in the 1970s and 1980s challenged contemporary notions of what was ‘ugly’ or ‘beautiful’, the definition of art itself and the hierarchy of the art world.’

Co-curator Takahashi Kintarō commented:

‘The present and the future of the creative essence of Japanese media art, unbound by genre or generation - welcome to the WAVE exhibition.’ 

Co-curator Hiro Sugiyama commented: 

‘The most significant movement in the world of Japanese illustration from the 1970s to the 1980s was that of heta-uma. What is ‘heta-uma’? It was one concept proposed by one illustrator. The concept has influenced many creators. It has also had a tremendous impact on Japanese graphic art today. We hope that through the WAVE exhibition you will be able to enjoy a look at the true state of Japanese graphic arts.’

Notes to Editors
Japan House London is a cultural destination offering guests the opportunity to experience the best and latest from Japan. Located on London’s Kensington High Street, the experience is an authentic encounter with Japan, engaging and surprising even the most knowledgeable guests. Presenting the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology, it deepens the visitor’s appreciation of all that Japan has to offer. Part of a global initiative, there are two other Japan Houses, one in Los Angeles and the other in São Paulo.