We celebrated the opening of Carl Randall’s Tokyo Portraits exhibition at the Daiwa Foundation Japan House Gallery on 16 January 2014. The artist was introduced by author David Mitchell (Booker Prize shortlisted – Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten).
Tokyo Portraits are 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, 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.
Signed limited edition copies of the artist’s catalogue ‘Japan Portraits’ were on sale at a special exhibition price. The 120 page hardback book illustrates paintings and drawings made in Japan, with an introduction by Donald Richie, and foreword by English author Desmond Morris.
Image: Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo, 2011, oil on canvas, 162 x 97cm © Carl Randall
About the contributors
Carl Randall (b. 1975, UK) is a figurative artist who has studied in London and Tokyo. A graduate of The Slade 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. Most recently, Carl was awarded the prestigious 2012 BP Travel Award by The National Portrait Gallery in London.
British writer David Mitchell (born in 1969) is a graduate of the University of Kent and spent eight years living in Japan. His first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), won the John Llewellyn-Rhys Prize for the best book by a writer under 35 and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second and third novels, number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004), were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2010 he wrote a novel set in 18th century Japan called The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Regional Prize (South Asia and Europe), as well as being one of Time Magazine’s Best Books of the Year in 2011. He now lives in County Cork, Ireland, with his family.