Nama Āto artists visit the UK

Earlier this year, Outside In partnered with Atelier Corners, an organisation supporting disabled artists in Osaka Japan, to deliver the exhibition Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art. The exhibition, supported by Unlimited, showcased the work of artists Yasuyuki Ueno, Makoto Okawa and Koji Nishioka. It opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester before touring to the Southbank Centre in London and Tramway in Glasgow as part of Unlimited Festival

Takako Shiraiwa, President of Atelier Corners, brought artists Yasuyuki Ueno and Koji Nishioka over to London to see their work on display at the Southbank Centre. They were joined by support staff from Atelier Corners and the mother of artist Makoto Okawa. For this week’s blog we asked Takako to write about their visit to the UK.

‘Looking up at the sky from the window at Corners, we think of Outside In, far across the beautiful autumnal sky. Although some time has passed, each memory is remembered clearly. In our trip to England we were able to achieve the following:

1. Corners artists saw their artwork exhibited internationally with their own eyes

It was thought to be difficult for our artists with severe autism to travel across the ocean to see their own exhibition. However, we have shown that it is possible through thorough preparation and support from the company of caregivers who know the artists’ daily lives so well. Upon entering the exhibition, Ueno seemed happy seeing his artworks displayed beautifully and kept on looking again and again. Nishioka seemed to wonder why his artworks were displayed there at first, but gradually he started to look at artworks one by one, as if remembering each moment when he created them. Everyone also exchanged their name cards with Jennifer and others and seemed happy.


Koji Nishioka with his work


Yasuyuki Ueno with his work


Makoto Okawa’s mother holding a photograph of Makoto in front of one of his paintings. Makoto passed away earlier this year.


2. Atelier Corners presented a talk as part of Unlimited Festival

It was our first time giving a presentation overseas with an interpreter, so we were nervous. Thankfully, Tony Heaton of Shape Arts helped us with introductions so we were able to relax. Also with the great support of the venue set up, the sign language interpreters and the live on-screen captions, we were led to success. The audiences were interested in us as visitors from Japan and listened to us with close attention. Being accompanied by an interpreter who knows about Corners so well, we succeeded on understanding each other through the presentation and the question and answer session which followed. Through the questions, we understood that people are very interested in Japanese Outsider Art.

3. Live drawing occurred in the exhibition space

We provided an opportunity for Ueno and Nishioka to each work on a drawing for about an hour in the exhibition space. This allowed the public to see the artists at work. We were worried that live drawing by the artists may not be successful because our artists are sensitive to changes of environment. Our worries proved to be unfounded. Surrounded by a nicely laid out piano and easels, and sitting on chairs facing away from the audience, the artists were able to concentrate and paint comfortably, just like our daily routine in Japan. We think that their experiences in London have given them a big amount of confidence.


Koji Nishioka and Yasuyuki Ueno drawing in the exhibition space

The exhibition was very sophisticated and wonderful. It was the right amount of space, with beautiful frames and glass cases, great captions, and everything was in harmony. We would like to express our respect to Jennifer and all the staff of Outside In. Also, we would like to say that we admire Jennifer’s planning, in inviting us to observe three facilities: Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery, Tate Modern and its access and outreach programmes and ActionSpace.


Yasuyuki Ueno and Koji  Nishioka enjoy a boat trip on the Thames

Lastly, the London transport situation was not perfect for us, but people in London were very friendly and helpful. It was hard to fully understand how people with disabilities are supported in the UK because of our short stay. However, Tony Heaton told us that the London Paralympics certainly raised public awareness of people with disabilities. Unlimited was an initiator and we were so touched to be invited to be part of the Unlimited Festival, which is a continuing legacy of the London Paralympics.

We would like to thank everyone involved again. Arigato, Ookini (Thank you in Osaka dialect!)’

Takako Shiraiwa, President of Atelier Corners

The final venue for the national tour of Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art will be Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester. The exhibition will run from 20 January to 12 March 2017.

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