Carl Randall – Japan Portraits
The Japan Portraits series by figurative painter Carl Randall reveals both the traditional and modern, the rural and urban, the real and fictitious facets of a country seen through the eyes of a foreign visitor and temporary dweller – Carl lived in Tokyo for ten years. Some works were based upon the Tokaido Highway, a route running from Tokyo to Kyoto, also traveled and depicted by the work of Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige – Andō Hiroshige (1797–1858). The British artist has created an insightful contemporary equivalent based on the contrast between the crowded and noisy public spaces of Japan and divided inner worlds, of silence and solitude. Many of the cityscapes were inspired by the crowds and public spaces of Tokyo.
The suffocating scenery of the overpopulated cities corresponds with a growing state of alienation, and is skillfully captured in the image of the distorted figures of actual residents, disconnected from each other and fully absorbed by their everyday routine, by the giant billboards, their smartphones and gadgets. A short video of the artist sketching and painting in Japan can be seen here.
Painted in grey to suggest their anonymity and emphasize their isolation within the crowd, with their heads so packed together that the background becomes barely recognizable, the artist manages to suppress any trace of diversity and individuality, while highlighting the lack of human relationships – the media, the technology, the advertising always seem to interfere, even the restaurants evoke estrangement, and the smallest possible connection is rather functional than natural. In the paintings where color is used, however, symbols indicating a rich yet endangered cultural identity still survive, but a permanent loss has taken place – loosing oneself, the other, falling in a contagious inertia.
The faces of the characters are so expressive that we can almost feel their apathy, the weariness, the discomfort, the absence of intimacy, the noise, the neon lights, the consuming emptiness inside and the overwhelming rush outside.
Mr.Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo, oil paint on canvas, 97 x 162cm, 2011. Exhibited at the 2012 BP Portrait Awards, The National Portrait Gallery London. Winner of the 2012 BP Travel Award.
Carl Randall – Tokyo, oil paint on canvas, 65 x 150cm, 2011. Exhibited at The Aberdeen Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Museum 2013 (‘Portraits of Modern Japan’ BP Travel Award exhibition).
Tokyo Subway, acrylic paint on canvas, 162 x 130cm, 2008. Exhibited at The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013, London.
Shinjuku, oil paint on canvas, 230 x 100cm, 2011. Exhibited at the 2013 BP Portrait Awards, The National Portrait Gallery London.
Sushi, oil paint on canvas, 41 x 29cm, 2011. Exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery London (‘Portraits of Modern Japan’ BP Travel Award exhibition).
Onsen, oil paint on canvas, 32 x 41cm, 2012. Exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery London (‘Portraits of Modern Japan’ BP Travel Award exhibition).
Also view the London Portraits paintings.
Images © Carl Randall