Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art

Japanese Outsider Art

At The Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester
20 January - 12 March 2017

Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art is an exhibition of three Japanese visual artists whose work is being presented in the UK for the first time. Koji Nishioka’s intuitive musical scores related to existing pieces of music but which a pianist may not easily read; Makoto Okawa’s depiction of happiness, sadness and pleasure in his 3D ‘Makoot’ dolls and colourful drawings; Yasuyuki Ueno’s world where preconceived notions of female characters and fashion objects are challenged. All of the artists have learning disabilities, and are supported by Atelier Corners in Osaka Japan, an organisation supporting disabled artists to realise their potential. The exhibition opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in August 2016 and toured to London's Southbank Centre and Tramway in Glasgow as part of Unlimited Festival.

Koji Nishioka’s started creating his ‘music score’ art works when a piano was donated to Atelier Corners, and since then, he has created over 200 of these unique drawings. He copies directly from music scores, meaning all of his drawings are related to existing pieces of music. As Nishioka’s astigmatism worsens in his left eye, the compositions of his musical score drawings move further to the right. More recently, Nishioka has been leaving more white space around the score, creating predominantly in black and white, but occasionally experimenting with colour.

Makoto Okawa worked in both two- and three-dimensions, receiving a lot of attention for his vivid colours and energetic expression. His ‘Makoot’ (interesting doll) works are now his predominant focus since he started creating them in 2005. Most of Okawa’s dolls are creatures born from his imagination, although more recently he has been using his favourite actor – Tetsuya Takeda – as a motif. 

At the same time as working on his 3D pieces, Okawa worked on his 2D pieces. For these, he used pastel crayon paint, marker and coloured pencils, painting into the paper with a good amount of pressure. Okawa passed away in early 2016.

Yasuyuki Ueno loves pretty and Kawaii (cute) things; for example, his favourite colour is pink and his favourite character is Betty Boop. In his work, Ueno is particular about the gestures of fashion models, their clothing and the colours they wear. He will repeatedly experiment by drawing and re-drawing lines and painting several layers until he is satisfied with the finished product.

The three artists have work in collections worldwide, and have exhibited in numerous places internationally, including Japan, the USA, the Czech Republic and France, but never before in the United Kingdom.

This is a touring exhibition delivered by Outside In, Pallant House Gallery and Atelier Corners. It is supported by Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin); celebrating the work of disabled artists, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, British Council, Creative Scotland and Spirit of 2012. There is additional support from the Japan Foundation.

Dates: 20 January - 12 March 2017

Venue: The Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 7HA


Image: Yasuyuki Ueno, Woman # 7