Streets covered in snow with people having fun playing with snowballs outside; inside two Japanese artists are five minutes apart in London, but fifty years apart in time and a generation apart in technology.
Contrasting with the white snow and the dark clouds overhead, fifty years of the colourful work of Katsumi Nakai (1927-2013) shine through the windows of the Ronchini Gallery, blending Japanese and Italian influences arising from his move to Milan in his late 30’s, when his work embraced the geometric colours and shapes of the contemporary art scene there, where almost 20 years later Ettore Sotssass founded Memphis which continues in the paintings and installations of Nathalie du Pasquier recently on show at Camden Arts and PACE London. Nakai’s work is more natural and graphic in style, limited to a few colors plus the occasional splash of black, but like Memphis, it is 3-dimensional and indeed is moveable with many of the shapes folded and hinged like origami.
Five minutes walk away is Hiraki Sawa’s Fantasmagoria at Parafin. Born 50 years after Nakai, and therefore of an entirely different generation with opportunities to use new technologies, he makes extensive use of film and video, with Parafin showing UK premieres of three works, one of which, ulo.ulo.ulo has a wintry theme appropriate for the weather outside, but also a mystical surreal feeling as another artist Tetsuya Umeda is filmed in the dark icy landscape of Lake Shuparo in Hokkaido in Japan, eerily lit only by a light bulb, including moving the bulb up and down through a hole in the ice, where the light from the lightbulb and the ice combine to create a variety of different illuminated refracted reflections while the other two works fantasmagoria and fish story are based on the story of Sawa’s grandfather who suffered a stroke as a young man and the arduous search of his wife to find and transport ice to keep her husband cool and control the bleeding on his brain.