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Japanese Women Artists in Art History

HER POWER Global Female Contemporary Art Online Exhibition 2021  


Curated by
(Click to see their preface and forword)

2021 · HER POWER

The prologue of the "Life.Blossom” Exhibition - "Her Power" Online Exhibition, was jointly initiated by HK Art of Nature International Female Art Research Society, Art Life Foundation, and female artists and art institutions.


The first stage will bring the recommendations from our academic consultants, invited curators and  International Women Artists Federation as pilot. Up to now, we have received works from around 120 artists from more than 30 regions (including oil paintings, ink paintings, installations, sculptures, photography, digital images, etc.).


The call for works is still open to public. The online exhibition will also be published by region, theme, category, subject, or material.


The content of the online exhibition will be presented on Art of Nature’s official website and the platform of "Her Art", Facebook,  and overseas online platforms.


Art of Nature Intrenational Female Art Online Exhibition

 Orgainisors :

HK Art of Nature International Female Art Research Society, Art Life Foundation


After two months of preparation, the Japan chapter of HER POWER is finally about to be launched. This chapter is the preface written by Shun, our joint curator of HER POWER, for the Japan chapter. The article starts with the neglect of female artists in Japanese art history, what female movements have experienced in Japanese art history, what female artists have emerged, and what predicaments they face.

In the two years of the epidemic, I spent most of my time in Tokyo. The Japanese government's continuous emergency responses and precautionary measures have exhausted people. Art museums require their visitors to make reservations in advance, wear masks, take body temperature and queue. They also limit the number of visitors. These have become habits in the past two years. I managed to visit some exhibitions every time before returning to Shanghai, for fear that if I did not see some exhibitions now, I would never see them in my life.


One of the most impressive exhibitions was "Another Energy" at the Mori Art Museum. It brought together the works of 16 female artists from 14 countries worldwide and was curated by the museum's new director, Kataoka Mami.


Photos of "Another Energy" Exhibition

The artists are between the ages of 72 and 106. Since most of them live in foreign countries, the exhibition broke the boundary of nationality and also the tedious division that men equal rationality and women equal sensibility.


Their fresh, bold, conflicting, and philosophically esoteric works greatly impact the audiences. Those unique temperaments in the course of life come from the profound personal experience of a maverick. No matter whose child, whose wife, whose mother you are, you should be just "yourself" in the first place.


Photos of "Another Energy" Exhibition

In Japanese and Asian societies, there are still many women trying to get married before the age of 30 and resign from a company for their marriage. The husband is in charge of the work and the wife is in charge of the family and children. Thus, their social connection will be greatly reduced. The domestic work of homemakers is not easy, but there are still numerous husbands who think that only men can earn money to support their families, and that their wives are taking the easy part at home.


In the late 19th century, the popular Victorian image of the ideal wife or woman came to be "the Angel in the House" in the patriarchal society. Women must be pure, submissive and devoted to their husbands to be good wives in the family. The New Women movement broke many traditions that have long imprisoned women. Virginia Woolf once said, "kill the angels in the house".


From the marriage law in the 1850s to the first married person law and the second married person law, the women's liberation movement has been gradually promoted to the public for nearly 50 years.


The core idea of Neofeminism is economical and personal independence. Like characters in Joseph Conrad's novels, Aissa in "An Outcast of the Islands" and Nina in "Almayer's Folly". They are the image the neofeminists promote, which is strong and powerful.


They fled from their father's domination but were then subject to the dominance of their husband in their marriage. When they realized they needed to get rid of it, run away from home, or choose a path they liked, they completely abandoned the ideal image of a faithful "wife".


In France, Chanel, who was also a figure in the Victorian period, first broke the stereotype of women with a new fashion trend that women could wear trousers, ride bikes and wear hats in men's style. Collet's life and literature is also a model of French Neofeminism.


Coco Chanel wearing trousers which used to be menswear only

In Japan, the social changes brought by the Meiji Restoration had a prolonged effect on Women's Liberation Movement. However, the above-mentioned European liberation of women has played an important role in reconstructing the Japanese feminist movement in the restoration period.


In 1922, Tokyo Japan, a group of women were fighting for women's rights.

As far as the field of art is concerned, it has long been a male-dominated structure. Tokyo Fine Arts School (currently Tokyo University of the Arts) only admitted male students, and women were not eligible to apply. The establishment of the Joshibi University of Art and Design, among the five major art academies in Tokyo, aimed to encourage women's self-reliance through art education, improve women's social status, and cultivate women as art educators. This school was founded in 1900. The founder, Yokoi Tamako, played an essential role in changing the Japanese society where only male students could be admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts.


Among the "Gutai" group that emerged in Kansai in the 1950s, there were many active female artists such as Tanaka Atsuko. While the members of the "Mono-ha" artists in Kanto that emerged in the 1960s were all male. It was not until the 1990s that large-scale art museum exhibitions with feminist themes began to emerge in Japan.


Atsuko Tanaka, "Electric Dress", 1957

After the 2000s, many art museums in the world have successively hired female directors, as well as feminist-themed exhibitions. The research on female artists in art history also started to receive significant attention. The traditional model that critics, museum directors, journalists, historians are all run by men is questioned by society.

"WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution" exhibition (2007) at MOCA in LA and "elles@centrepompidou" exhibition (2009-2011) also received tremendous attention (its curator Camille Morineau is a well-known female curator. Man. And was served as Curator of Contemporary Collections at the Centre Georges Pompidou for ten years).


"elles@centrepompidou" exhibition,

which only showcased the works of women artists in the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou Art

The tour exhibitions of "Viva Video!: The Art and Life of Shigeko Kubota" in Japan's three major art museums have also become a new topic in Japan. Shigeko, a member of Fluxus, has made extraordinary achievements in Video Art. Still, the status and contribution of her works in art history are obviously underestimated - she was Nam June Paik's partner, so many people ignored the independence of her works. Only recently have many museums in Japan started to re-evaluate her work.


Poster of "Viva Video!: The Art and Life of Shigeko Kubota" at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo


Nam June Paik and Shigeko Kubota, 1976

The opening of the Nakanoshima Museum of Art in the Kansai region was to sort out the works of the Gutai artists. There were several couples in the Gutai artist group. Still, once there are husband and wife artists, the women artist is easily buried behind the scenes and only seen as a wife rather than an independent artist.

The success of a man's career is undoubtedly recognized as individual efforts, while successful women are often easily defined as those who are led by men. What's more, for a woman with an inborn beautiful appearance, all her efforts and achievements will be ignored comes with the territory.


Members of Gutai Group

Therefore, the collaboration with Art of Nature this time, as in "HER POWER. JAPAN", is a reiteration of the power of women.

The coming online exhibition unites most of the Japanese female artists who have worked with us. Emi Uchida, Haruna Sato, Ouma, Mariko Hayashi, Ayaka Nakamura, Shino Hirata, Akane Fujita, Mari Saito, Akiko Mabuchi, Ichigo Yamamoto, Diant Saku, and Nana Monda will participate in the online exhibition "HER POWER · Japan".​


Participating artists of "HER POWER.JAPAN"

The 12 artists are located all over Japan. Emi Uchida lives in Okayama, and has her own studio in Ushimado, where Bizen-yaki kilns are concentrated. Haruna Sato is in Gunma. Ouma, Ayaka Nakamura, Diant Saku are in Tokyo. Mariko Hayashi and Akane Fujita are in Chiba. Mari Saito and Akiko Mabuchi are in Kagawa. Nana Monda is in Kumamoto. Ichigo Yamamoto is in Ishikawa. The works, thoughts, living space and state of mind of the women artists from all over Japan are all points to be paid attention to in this online exhibition.

Emi Uchida, with her abstract lines, is a rising star of female abstract art after Kusama Yayoi. She graduated from Joshibi University of Art and Design. The lines in her works emerge from the bottom of the soul, which are confiding, leaking and raging. All short, "I cannot be complicit with the world". The countless lines are black with charcoal, revealing the clarity of the artist.


Emi Uchida

"Trace - 320 Seed", 2021

89.5 × 130.5 cm

Oil, charcoal on canvas

Haruna Sato's oil paint knocks out layers of skin temperature and the innocence of a child on the wooden board. The puff of a child's sleeping face is serene and beautiful, regardless of skin color. Before the eve of darkness, the world is always pleasing.


Haruna Sato

"Soft and Warm", 2016

Pastel on paper

Ayaka Nakamura's abstract works have been recently high-profile in Japan. The magnificent paintings are soft but also stubborn and rebellious. It is fiery like a volcanic eruption while it is sobriety like being in the iceberg and snow. Never afraid of the hardships in reality, we have to move forward bravely, and we are mostly self-comforting on the road.


Ayaka Nakamura

"I Hear", 2022

41 × 53 × 2cm

Acrylic paint, plating, canvas

OUMA was initially a veterinarian. After working as an artist, her works mainly focus on cells. Her installations and graphic works are like the sublimation of the moment of life, directly emphasizing the concept of life and death.



"Visual Treatment Room", 2020

165 x 240 x 165cm

Acrylic and pen on paper

Mariko Hayashi's art focuses on dimension and space, which is atmospheric, ethereal, and decisive. The larger the scale of the work, the more comfortable, free and open-minded she is. The artist also has a perfect command of the use of different materials.


Mariko Hayashi

"Fire Wood", 2021

81 x 81 x 35cm

Acrylic on paper

The abstraction in Shino Hirata's works are like a river and a mountain. You can't read her original intention, but you can definitely read her emotions.


Shino Hirata

"Bird's Eye of the River View"

83 x 57cm x 2

Acrylic on board

The urban atmosphere in Akane Fujita's works comes from her life and work experience. She has a unique combination and use of materials. The relationship between space and environment is the focus of her works. It is like standing at night and looking up at the starry sky, or standing on the beach and waiting for seawater rinsing your little feet.


Akane Fujita

"Harmony", 2016

50 x 50 x 37 cm

Acrylic on board

There are many tree shadows and lights in Mari Saito's works. She originally lived in a big city but then moved to the countryside of Kagawa. The difference between urban and rural culture and environment inspired her creation a lot.


Mari Saito

"Star", 2021

116.7 × 160.6cm

Ink on paper

Akiko Mabuchi is the only participating artist of this program I have not seen because she is about to give birth, yet I have seen her work. The use of blue and green in the works reflects the edification of the greeny mountains and waters on the artist's life. It is also the perception that a new life is about to be born.

Akiko Mabuchi

"Sunset", 2014

112 × 145.5 cm

Oil painting

It is a reunion with Nana Monda after ten years. She still occasionally paints her favorite cats. She looks more like a teenage girl when she participates in cat exhibitions. The style of her works is very Showa. She said that her work had been brightened a lot after coming to Kumamoto. The gradually powerful female image is indeed the most significant change in her work.


Nana Monda

"Higo Camellia", 2021

273 × 220 cm

Oil and gouache

Diant Saku has traveled around the world with her family since childhood. She has been exposed to different cultures and influenced by cultures from other dimensions. It is a bit far-fetched to judge her belonging by nationality. She moves freely across the fields of art, music, film, etc., which makes her a multi-talented scientist.


Diant Saku

"Mottainai", 2019

400 x 150 cm


"One Person" mentioned by Chizuko Ueno, an honorary professor of women's studies at the University of Tokyo, has always been one of the best-sellers. Single nobles refer to female figures who are financially independent and spiritually free. The improvement of economic independence and education, as well as the improvement of the social system, should be the key to the protection of women's rights and interests.

It is a pity that there has been a lot of domestic violence in Japanese society under the epidemic. When young divorced mothers form a new family, the news of the child's death caused by the abuse of the stepfather becomes common, which has aroused public concern. Hopefully, human evolution isn’t just about data, GDP and the economy. People should treat people as people.

I hope that in the post-pandemic era, the world is still beautiful and women can still live freely.


-The End-


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