As the name suggests, the main concept behind the “Quintet” series of exhibitions that the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art started running last year is to bring together five artists whose art harmonizes well, just like a musical quintet.
Another goal, according to the museum’s chief curator, Masaru Igarashi, is to boost mid-career middle-ranking artists, in order to help them get their own solo shows at major art museums.
“Quintet I” took landscape as its unifying theme, and while “Quintet II: Five Star Artists,” stays with that theme, it pushes it in a much more abstract direction.
A good example is Naoko Tomioka. Her earlier works are entirely abstract compositions in which the focus is on the emotional resonance of colors, applied using translucent acrylics on a strong white base. This technique gives her art a feeling of lightness and airiness. But in her more recent works she has inserted a “horizon” so that we see her abstract assemblages of color also as landscapes.
In the case of “Daybreak Toward Morning” (2014), where two yellowish arcs straddle the sky, there is even a temptation to see it as a depiction of a distant planet or possibly a moon of Saturn, but such a reading pushes Tomioka’s art too much into the figurative. According to the artist, the spaces lying above and below the horizon are metaphors for the “outside world and the world within,” giving them a psychological relevance.
As middle-ranking artists, the five individuals selected have appeared in various group shows, most notably the VOCA (Vision of Contemporary Art) competition, and have benefitted from Agency of Cultural Affairs study grants, allowing some of them, including Fumie Hiratai, to study overseas.
Part of the intention behind the grants is to help artists attain a more “international” style, but in the case of Hiratai, who spent a year in Belgium, her art took on a more self-consciously Japanese flavor, with forceful brushstrokes, similar to that of shodō (calligraphy), on a previously painted base.
There is also Japanese influence on Etsuko Iwao’s art. Her earlier works seem diffident, but her recent ones are more confident. They feature lush landscapes anthropomorphized with human eyelashes, but softened with enough abstraction to counteract the potential absurdity.
Less engaging were the biomorphic spaces of Ayako Mizumura and the vestiges of shapes buried in Aki Yamamoto’s paintings, but these two artists were not without merit, and, more importantly, their contribution added to the overall harmony of the quintet.
“Quintet II: Five Star Artists” at Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art runs till Feb. 15; |OPEN 10 A.M.-6 P.M. ¥500. CLOSED MON. www.sjnk-museum.org/en/program_en/2803