Tokyo Portraits is a series of figurative paintings inspired by the people and places of Tokyo – responses to everyday life in Japan’s capital, as seen through the eyes of a visiting UK artist. Inspired by the city’s crowded streets, large canvases depict masses of densely packed faces. These works have been made in collaboration with hundreds of people living or working in Tokyo, each volunteering to sit for their portraits. Other paintings are based upon everyday life in Tokyo, depicting people in trains, shops and streets – subtle distortions in space and scale often being used to combine the familiar with a slight sense of the unreal.
Themes dealt with in these works include overpopulation, community and the individual and the group. A recurring theme is urban isolation – anonymous strangers in crowded public spaces; people sharing the same close physical space, but mentally existing in separate private worlds – a phenomenon that can be seen in large cities such as Tokyo. This exhibition will also include Japanese ink paintings and smaller individual portraits of Tokyo residents, such as the writer Donald Richie.
Carl Randall (b. 1975, UK) is a figurative artist who has studied in London and Tokyo. A graduate of The Slade of School of Fine Art and The Princes Drawing School in London, he has won several UK prizes including 1st prize in the national Singer & Friedlander/Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. Continuing his art career in Japan, he was awarded a Daiwa Scholarship in 2003 and the Japanese Government (MEXT) Postgraduate Scholarship in 2006. He completed a Masters and Doctorate in Fine Art at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and the Nomura Prize was awarded to him for his Doctorate Graduation exhibition, resulting in one of his paintings being bought by the University Museum for their permanent collection.
He has exhibited in various galleries internationally including The Royal Academy of Arts, The Jerwood Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery, London; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Arts for the Tokyo Art Award and Art Taipei in Taiwan. He has taken part in residencies in Hiroshima City (to meet and paint portraits of survivors of the atomic bomb) and ‘ING Fresh Eyes on Formula 1’ at Fuji Speedway (to document the Formula 1 races in Japan). Most recently, Carl was awarded the prestigious 2012 BP Travel Award by The National Portrait Gallery in London, to document the people and places of The Tokaido Highway as they exist today (The Tokaido Highway is an old trading route running from Tokyo to Kyoto, famously portrayed in the prints of ukiyo-e artist Ando Hiroshige). These works were shown at The National Portrait Gallery, London and are touring the UK until May 2014. He will also be having a solo exhibition at The Hiroshige Shizouka City Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art, Japan, June – September 2014, where his paintings will be exhibited alongside Ando Hiroshige’s original wood block prints.
Image: Tokyo Subway, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 162cm © Carl Randall
Below is a documentary about Carl Randall at work in Tokyo: