I wrote a while ago about Champuru, an exhibition of contemporary Okinawan art in Vancouver that I've been eager to see. Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my husband from work for an evening on the town. We headed over to find it at Tinseltown, a still new, huge three-story shopping centre and movie theatre on the edge of Chinatown. Being our first visit there we felt a bit lost as we wandered around trying to find the exhibition, even asking security and store personnel, who were all helpful but still misdirected us. As seems usual, we found it in the last place we hadn't looked - left of the doors looking out to GM Place stadium with a small handwritten sign, should any readers be heading there. Our first impression upon walking in was of a cavernous grey concrete space with a huge wall of glass and the few installations looking quite overwhelmed.
We did enjoy studying each artist's work aided by some interesting stories offered by the helpful and knowledgeable attendant. Ikuko Hanashiro has two installations, shown in the photo above. I was intrigued by the group of what looked like miniature boats sitting on the concrete floor made of slices of wood from a young tree with little wood cages on top. These represent an Okinawan custom to send off the spirits of the dead to China, "a better place" (or if in China, to Japan!). On the right, note the shaman stick, for the artist comes from a family of matriarchal shamans. She had denied her calling until recently and thus her work reveals an interest in prayer and Okinawan folklore ceremonies. Some of her earlier work can be viewed on her website (click on WORK and year).
Hiroya Maeda, artist & curator of the Okinawa Museum of Contemporary Art being built presently, has a beautiful spiritual feeling installation of small sculptural wall and floor pieces, with subtle textures of shiny and matte black, and with small pools of water in some of the floor pieces - all too difficult to capture in a photo unfortunately.
Ryujin Ie is a calligraphic, installation and performance artist. He "performed" calligraphic expressionist works on huge sheets of paper at the opening that are up for viewing. It is interesting how he uses the traditional scroll with contemporary imagery, sometimes using rolls of many metres long, such as in a performance on Central Park, New Your in 1988, as shown in the exhibition printouts. The image below shows his sculptural installation with scrolls that we found compelling.
Overall, the connection to their culture and history is what makes these artists' works meaningful to us both. It's a shame this exhibition was not presented in a more congenial space, especially with some connection to nature, which I believe is a strong aesthetic for the Okinawans. The new museum in Okinawa should be such a wonderful space.