Carl Randall’s Japan

 

The BP Portrait Award 2013 is currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery, with works by over fifty artists on display. And despite our best efforts and the obviously impressive range of skills on view, we were at a loss to pick a favorite; one work that would leap out from the walls to grab our attention and demand a ‘like’.

Until that is, we saw the work of BP Travel Award 2012 artist, Carl Randall.

After spending several long minutes looking at his paintings, peering up close to stare at details of doe-eyes and count the number of mobile phones within a frame, we were finally satisfied that we had found ‘it’.

With art degrees achieved in both London and Tokyo, and with numerous awards under his belt, Randall used the £5,000 prize of the BP Travel Award 2012 to travel along the ancient Tōkaidō highway between Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. In doing this he traced the footsteps of the famous Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), who traveled that very route in 1832 to create a series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints called the The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. While this area has undergone many obvious changes from then to now, what does impress us in Randall’s depictions of modern-day Japanese life is that the urban and rural co-exist neck-to-neck but without any discomfort or condescension.

His series is called ‘In the foosteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan‘ and fifteen of the works are on display at the Award exhibition.

The Rice Farmers’ Daughters (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Aka Fujii (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Sumo (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Onsen (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Tetrapods (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Sushi (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Shoe Shop (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Mr Kitazawa's Noodle Bar (oil on canvas © Carl Randall)
Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Shinjuku (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Here’s a short video that follows Randall through Tokyo as he makes his sketches.

 

The BP Portrait Award
National Portrait Gallery
Till 15 Sept 2013

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