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Reviewed by: Catherine Sadler »
This artists book by Stella Whalley documents her time spent in Tokyo and Kyoto during a residency in Japan. It is a highly personal publication that details her experience and understanding of aspects of Japanese culture, some already familiar to a western audience.
Page after page of striking visuals drawings overlaid on photographs, paintings of manga figures, of The Jam, and the artist in drag as a kind of man in a comic book-style sequence, that also alludes to traditional wood block printing illustrate and expand on the text, which reads like Whalleys journal or diary.
This text shifts fairly rapidly from one subject or train of thought to the next. To some degree this reflects the experience of the visitor to another city or culture, and a reflection of the pace and diversity of that culture. At times, however, these shifts make it hard to keep track of whats going on. The book alludes to many different things both textually and visually and it occasionally feels too dense, and the reader gets lost in that density.
The design of the book is influenced by both traditional and contemporary Japanese art and culture the special editions are covered in Japanese silk or wallpaper. Typographically it is traditional in its treatment of the main body of text and the accompanying essays but the chapter headings and textual interventions are dynamic and invigorating. In a section at the back of book the text is also translated into Japanese.
The Tokyo of Whalleys book is a highly ordered but chaotic city, and Japan a land of part fantasy, part vivid reality. It examines and displays these opposites, the points at which they converge, and the tensions and exchange between the traditional and contemporary, the East and the West.
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