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Abstract Japan 

Mandells' Gallery 4th -25th September 2021

The story begins in early 2018 when a fellow artist and friend came with me to Japan, my 9th visit and their first. We went with the idea that we would share the same sights and experiences and potentially use the experience to create a body of work to exhibit together. In October 2018 we visited Tokyo Kyoto and Kurashiki. It was interesting to revisit places alongside a pair of fresh eyes. One thing led to another and it was decided that perhaps another trip would be required. This was undertaken in early 2020, pre-covid. But only just. The day we arrived, Prime Minister Abe had closed the museums. The Temple and Shrine gardens were still very much open though, as was the urban Tokyo landscape. On our return Lockdown gave us both plenty of time to digest our experiences and each create a large body of new work.
I thoroughly enjoyed making work for the exhibition, drawing on images and emotions going back to my first visits to Japan in the early noughties.
The exhibition took place at the lovely Mandell's Gallery, in Elm Hill, Norwich in September 2021. It was declared to be a great success by all.
Below is my exhibition statement;

Having visited Japan  a dozen times now I am still constantly intrigued by the sheer amount of surface pattern and texture I feel obliged to photograph on my travels. I have now amassed a vast photographic library for inspiration.
Having always been drawn to Mans' effect on the landscape, I delighted in a culture that integrates nature into everyday life, without fuss nor affectation. Patterns created by the natural world become stylised within traditional Japanese design and rather than being considered old and irrelevant they are constantly repurposed, invigorated and incorporated into contemporary art and design , always evolving, yet always highly recognisable. 
I try and work with things that evoke a place or an emotion, for example the screen printed slip designs on the vessels came from a particularly adventurous trip to the ancient pottery town of Shigaraki. The tools used for markmaking were all collected on my journeys over the years, they are  simple things, not potters tools at all, but a small pickle fork, hand carved from a forked branch. It's use brings forth both parallel lines and memories of Nara. Handmade and beautiful brushes, bought in the back streets of Asakusa in Tokyo were made for a specific but unknown  purpose - for me they give the perfect application of slip. The cloth used for printmaking on the work came from Tanjin sen, what adventures had they had? 
All of the work for this exhibition has a special stamp, or chop which was made for me in 2020 in the backstreets of  Kyoto, in a tiny one man shop.
Emotions that I am attempting to share with the viewer are the clarity of simplicity, an observation the small things and truth to materials. 
The joy of repetition within design until the action is as natural as breathing and a delight in observing the ephemeral, the untidy beauty of decay. 
Two decades of memories and experiences come flooding back as I look at my photographs, so many emotions, so much learning, laughter and sheer exhaustion! Making the work for this exhibition has been both a joy and an expression of my very deep affection for a Country and its' people who have given me so much.

Pat Southwood September 2021