Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sapporo International Art Festival - Japan

Views from our walk over Toyohira River into town at Sapporo.
As some of you may know, my travel to Japan last month was related to my husband's Ironman sporting activities. With positions often selling out in the races within days, travel is booked up to a year in advance. Given this I was absolutely delighted to find out a few months after booking that Sapporo would be hosting its International Art Festival while we were there....serendipity!

SIAF 2014 is being held as part of the Creative City Sapporo initiative, from July 19 to September 28, 2014, under the stewardship of Guest Director and globally renowned artist Ryuichi Sakamoto. The theme of the event is City and Nature - great fit with my practice, and an opportunity to see contemporary artists exploring how cities can coexist with nature in the future.

We were away for two weeks in the north island of Hokkaido, with five days in the rural race area of Lake Toya and the remaining time in Sapporo. This gave me plenty of time to check out almost all of the art festival venues and see some great art. I'll say now that for me the highlight of Japan (this being my first time there) was the people. I found them incredibly polite and helpful, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths, and very humble, all admirable qualities. Shuttle buses to two major venues in the outer suburbs were punctual to the minute, making it very easy to tell if we were catching the right bus. And with plenty of signs, brochures and volunteer helpers available, it was a very well organised festival.

I had a bit of an idea of some of the art I would see at the festival, such is the internet, but was also pleasantly surprised, particularly with textiles.

Ainu Textiles were on display in the festival venue Sapporo Eki-mae dori Underground Walkway - and instantly caught my eye with their striking patterns and tonal contrast. Beautifully hand stitched, the stunning patterns are said to ward off evil spirits, and have been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. I saw several more examples of Ainu textiles in Sapporo and contemporary examples of artists working with these traditional craft forms.

Paper and wood were other material highlights, with Japanese artists highlighting the natural surface and aesthetic qualities in often subtle and minimal was definitely a 'less is more approach' in many works.

Takashi Kuribayashi's paper forest (above) titled 'Wald aus Wald (Forest from Forest)' 2010 was one of these works. We had a lot of fun engaging with this installation and at the same time admiring the creative skill and concept. On display at the Sapporo Art Museum, the white forest is made of Japanese washi paper that is itself made from trees. For more images and installation shots, check out this post on designboom.

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