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Japan Art Expo

In June 2018 Utrecht in the Netherlands hosted something not seen in Europe for many years (if ever before). Samurai Art Expo brought together specialist sellers from Japan, North America and Europe offering a huge range of high quality Japanese Arms and Armour. Alongside this commercial activity a programme of lectures was delivered on a range of topics by collectors and students from around Europe.  All who attended Samurai art Expo had the opportunity to see swords, armour and tosugu on both the commercial stands and in the exhibition accompanying the lectures, of a quality rarely seen outside Japan. All visitors I spoke to both during and after the event had a very enjoyable and memorable experience. All without fail wanted to do it again.

Samurai Art Expo was not only a successful first event. Its execution and the subsequent positive feedback gave the organisers confidence not only to run the show again in 2020 but to dramatically expand the scope of the event. Renamed and re-branded as Japan Art expo it will now showcase artefacts from many other Japanese creative disciplines.

“My collection has brought to my attention aspects of history, philosophy, religion, folk art, gardening, painting and ceramics that I might not otherwise have seen.”

 Quotation from a catalogue of a sword collector of more than 30 years experience.

Broadening the scope of the exhibition will offer the visitor a much wider view of different aspects of Japanese art and culture. A cursory review of different Japanese art forms would very rapidly reveal common themes in decoration and composition. However within the designs and illustrations seen in different genre there is often a secondary, deeper, meaning or message. In addition many of the techniques and skills seen in one form are mirrored in others. Although totally individual there is a common thread within all the many diverse art forms that make them unmistakeably Japanese.

The educational programme plans to illustrate this diversity, covering a wide range of topics. We will attempt to demonstrate the interaction between different genre and how one discipline influenced others. When one begins to explore a particular Japanese art form it very rapidly becomes apparent how artists in one field drew inspiration from others, how myths or legendary figures illustrated in one form are recreated in another. However this cross fertilisation goes beyond design and composition. Within the programme of lectures we hope to be able to show some of the less obvious interaction between different artists and how the different disciplines learned from each other. We will also explore how artisan gained inspiration from the cultures of neighboring countries.  In many cases composition can go far beyond the decorative and hold a much deeper meaning than initially apparent.

By exploring the different aspects of design, composition and construction within an artifact one is able to obtain a much better understanding and appreciation of not only the piece in hand but the culture from which it evolved.

Japan Art Expo will offer the visitor an unparalleled opportunity to seeing different genre side by side and appreciate the intimate relationship that exists between different disciplines.

As we finalise the educational programme I will attempt to set the scene within these pages and prepare the visitors for what I believe will be an exceptional series of lectures.

Paul Bowman

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