19 June 2013

Carl Randall, 'In the footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan', The National Portrait Gallery London

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The work of former Daiwa Scholar Dr Carl Randall, winner of the 2012 BP Travel Award, will also be included in this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, in an exhibition titled In the footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan. The exhibition will run from 20 June until 15 September 2013.

The prestigious BP Portrait Award showcases fifty-five of the most outstanding and innovative new portraits from around the world.

Carl won the 2012 BP Travel Award for his proposal to travel along the Tokaido Highway between Tokyo to Kyoto in the footsteps of Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858).

The exhibition then tours to Aberdeen Art Gallery (2 November 2013 – 1 February 2014) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (3 March – 14 June 2014).

15 paintings are included in the exhibition.

CARL RANDALL – In the footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan

The Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858) made prints showing the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido Highway, an old trading route that ran from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing a series of woodblock prints depicting the people he met and the landscapes he experienced along the path.

In June 2012, 180 years after Hiroshige made the journey, Carl travelled the route in order to make portraits of the people and their environments as they exist today.

Carl did not faithfully document the exact locations on which Hiroshige’s prints were based, as he felt a literal approach would better suit photography. Instead, he used the project as a framework upon which to create more imaginative portraits of modern Japan.

The journey started in the bustling, vibrant capital city of Tokyo. Drawn to its densely crowded streets, Carl painted hundreds of residents one by one. In his painting Tokyo, the solid clustered mass of faces in the painting resembles one living organism, but upon closer inspection the individuality of each face becomes clear.

The largest work, Shibuya, depicts the pop-culture, street signs, advertisements and gigantic outdoor television screens of an area in Tokyo popular with young people, and Uguisudani portrays the love hotels and neon signs of one of the city’s red-light districts. Visiting other major cities along the route, such as Yokohama and Nagoya, Carl painted other features of modern Japan such as salary men, sushi restaurants and department stores.

As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming.

Finding the modern and urban ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, Carl included elements of the industrial within images of nature: bullet trains and motorways cut through mountains; telegraph poles and tower blocks dot the landscape and tetra-pods line the coastline.

Carl aimed to place the images in the contemporary world, while also avoiding nostalgic depictions of historical Japan. This seemed particularly important in a place such as Kyoto, the final stop of the journey, a city associated with all things traditionally Japanese, and occupying a strong place in the Western imagination.

Other pieces about  Carl Randall  on our website can be found here:

Carl Randall painting in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Carl Randall exhibiting at the 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize Carl Randall exhibiting at the Mall Gallieries and the National Portrait Gallery Carl Randall awarded the BP Travel Award 2012 Carl Randall wins the Nomura Prize


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