April 19, 2010

Newly formed Studio HeadSpace held a one-night arts and music festival in Osaka on Saturday night. Studio HeadSpace is an artist-run non-profit gallery in Nara whose mission is to ‘promote and support artists based in Kansai.’ Saturday night boasted no less than six bands, eight DJs and the involvement of over 30 artists and performers. Cafe Absinthe hosted the event in their Yotsubashi premises. The event involved art installations and artworks in progress – the artists adding to their works as the night progressed. There were projections on the walls, live music, drums, jugglers, saxophonists and dancers walking through the crowd. Diane Orrett, well known in Kansai for her rakugo (Japanese story-telling) and other event performances, danced through the rooms announcing each event. Takeshi Araki, of Design Festa Gallery in Harajuku, came from Tokyo especially for the event. He appeared surprised at the size of the event and asked if this kind of thing happened often in Osaka. By all accounts the evening was extremely successful with all proceeds going to the participating artists and musicians.

Dancer in an art installation at the art and music festival

Studio HeadSpace has also just initiated its international residency programme, hosting David Shillinglaw from the UK. I caught up with Shillinglaw at the festival and asked him how the past two weeks had been. ‘I’ve been treated very well,’ he said, delighted. He is well-versed in the international residency scene, having already completed residencies in China and Turkey. His artwork at the event covered one wall, a large face painted on cardboard boxes, its huge eyes watching over the whole event.

Shillinglaw, a friend of Jamie Goodenough (Director of Studio HeadSpace), was clearly an obvious choice as first artist-in-residence. He runs Nowhere North gallery in London and had been discussing a collaboration with Goodenough for a while. He was a good choice in that his charismatic personality added to Saturday night’s event. He flitted through the crowd talking to strangers about his work with ease, exuding energy,  joking with people and handing out hand-sewn booklets of his work.

David Shillinglaw adding to his artwork

Shillinglaw’s initial response to what influence Japan has had on his work was slightly disappointing. ‘I’d be doing the same thing wherever I was,’ he said. ‘ But I can’t get the paints I usually use so I have to use what is locally available.’ Then he pointed to a corner of his painting where some of the unpainted cardboard showed through, revealing a word. ‘That says cabbage.’ It was written in katakana. Obviously, he initially didn’t know the meaning and, after people mentioned it, he said it started to make him think. He feels his inability to read Japanese has been an advantage because it has made him see things differently. ‘Everything is a graphic to me.’ He feels that in Japan the commercial graphics are of a higher quality, that even the images on the side of trucks are interesting. ‘The lines are so clean.’ His artworks are graphic representations of Picasso-like faces with words inserted, labels of face parts, arrows, blocks of colour, stripes and patterns. Words and wordplay appear integral to his artwork so his inability to read Japanese must have a significant effect. To give Shillinglaw his due, he has only been in the country for two weeks. Perhaps he needs time to digest the experience before it comes out in his work.

Artwork by David Shillinglaw


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