2015 > Kawaii: crafting the Japanese culture of cute

The exhibition 'Kawaii - crafting the Japanese culture of cute' brings together 15 Japanese artists who are using traditional craft skills to translate, comment upon and engage with all aspects of Kawaii.

30 October - 12 December 2015
Monday to Friday 10am -5pm, Saturday 10am -4pm, closed Sunday

James Hockey & Foyer Galleries, UCA Farnham
Falkner Road, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7DS

What is Kawaii?

Wherever you go in Japan, sooner or later you will start to notice the word 'kawaii' in the conversations of young girls, and if you stay long enough you will also hear it in other situations, and maybe you will start to wonder what it means.

The easy answer is 'cute', something or someone who is sweet and appealing, and probably small. The most famous manifestation of kawaii is the global brand of Hello Kitty. And you will also notice that it is present in the popular cultures of Manga, Anime and the sub-culture of Cosplay.

The culture of kawaii has many levels of meaning and this exhibition is an exploration of those meanings. Helping in this exploration are a number of Japanese artists who are using many of the traditional crafts of Japan including textiles, urushi (lacquer), ceramics, glass, Ohigashi (sculpting soft bean paste), washi (handmade paper). These materials and techniques are combined with plastic, metal, sugar and graphic design as a means of commenting upon and in some cases reclaiming the culture of kawaii.

The exhibition contains works that are humorous, beautiful and dark. In approach some of the works reflect kawaii's commercial appeal to the pink princess in all of us, no matter what age or sex. Other works allude to the transgressive and exploitative nature of sexual politics. And some reclaim a much earlier meaning of Kawaii as described in the 11th century by Sei Shonagon in her Pillow Book chapter titled Endearingly Lovely Things: In fact absolutely anything that's tiny is endearing.

'Kawaii - crafting the Japanese culture of cute' combines the seemingly opposing elements of the crafts and popular culture to develop a UK forum for the exploration of the cultural impact of contemporary crafts. This interpretive translation of Kawaii offers contemporary craft practice as a pro-active link between popular culture, sub-culture and tradition.

The exhibition is supported by a full colour catalogue, seminars, lectures, workshops, exhibition tours by the curator and a public seminar at the Japan Foundation London on October 30th.

Following the showing at UCA Farnham the exhibition will tour to Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, February - April 2016

Find out more about the Kawaii artists

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