The Red Lanterns of Tokyo

Tokyo Street work in progress
Work in progress: Under the fake cherry blossoms, 48 x 36 cm, mixed media on watercolor paper, ©2013 Julie Galante. Finished piece will be available as a reward for a Kickstarter backer at the $350 or $600 level.

This month I am working on developing the body of work I started during my February artist’s residency in Tokyo. As this body of work progreses, certain themes and images are becoming quite central. The red lanterns which advertise izakaya (pub-style restaurants) on Tokyo streets have become one of my favorite subjects. Visually they strongly appeal to me; symbolically they also do well at representing my experience of Tokyo – the lanterns’ job is to communicate something to passersby, but the specifics of their messages were always lost on me, the locationally-illiterate foreigner.

Another image that keeps coming back is the lone person on a Tokyo street. In such a heaving, massive, populated city as Tokyo, it amazed me every time I found myself alone somewhere, how often my camera captured only a single person in a street scene. The contrast between population density and physical/social isolation in the modern world is at its starkest in Tokyo.

This piece is one of several mixed-media works I have in progress. Towards the end of the week I hope to have my new studio set up for oil painting as well. It has been five months since I painted in oils; I’m looking forward to returning to it.

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