Reflection on "Reflections of Japan"

Fri 29th October 2021
Japan Exhibition 19 Medium Jpg

Just Beverley took the opportunity to meet both Jane Irisa and Helena Cox who have collaborated together to put on ' Reflections of Japan in East Yorkshire’, a wonderful exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery.

The story began pre-covid times when Helena Cox, curator, looked to show a unique collection from local collector Jane Irisa. Then COVID-19 came and the exhibition had to be postponed. 

Helena was no different to a lot of people during lockdown and had to deal with the strange, unprecedented times while wondering what to do next, but out of adversity comes triumph, and curator Helena Cox came up with an idea.

The gallery thought it would be a good idea to widen the appeal and started to put out a call to East Riding Residents over social media to attract the attention of other local collectors to widen the exhibition, seek inspiration and get ideas from others.

Two years ago the Japanese Embassy introduced the Japan-UK Season of Culture, a celebration of the many facets of Japanese culture in the UK. Helena and Beverley Art Gallery were keen to get involved, and it has now been confirmed that this exhibition is one of the official events of the Japan-UK Season of Culture.

Following the call out to residents, the gallery has now formed a group with members who are delighted to show various forms of Japanese art and craft, which has widened the appeal of the exhibition. What makes the exhibition so special are the stories behind each of the exhibits and why the collector chose each particular piece, not because of value but of artistic or cultural merit.

Just Beverley spoke to both Helena Cox and Jane Irisa and got to hear some of these stories. The formation of the group is a wonderful story in itself.

Helena said: “The core of the exhibition is still Jane Irisa’s collection of traditional Japanese toys, which were collected from all over Japan during her many journeys there. Her collection inspired me to see if we could add to her brilliantly documented and well researched exhibits, and that's why I reached out to the public and formed a group of amazing collectors and lovers of Japanese culture from all over East Riding. The group met regularly online during the pandemic and together we formed the idea of a joint exhibition. We plan to keep in touch and create more events linked to Japanese culture in the future. 
The current exhibition brings together remarkable collections and stories which we only discovered because of COVID".

Alongside Jane's collections, Helena has brought together a variety of items which are beautifully displayed in the gallery and include rare items from the Imperial Court, calligraphy, along with decorative items, artwork and a collection of Japanese vintage kimonos.

Jane Irisa explained: "Having worked and lived in Japan, the small but intricate works of art and the culture behind each of the items inspired a collection, the first being the Northern Japan Kokeshi Dolls, traditionally painted with charming faces. These days it is the signature on the piece which is important, not of value but beautifully crafted, and that's what inspired me to explore deeper and go into the culture of these pieces of artwork. For my first piece I needed to satisfy my curiosity behind the culture with a visual representation of each of the pieces. Villages around Japan all have a unique and varied way of creating unique pieces of art, it's just fabulous, and the additional exhibits are a true representation of this".

Helena has been instrumental in pulling everything together, and the gallery is delighted to have a selection of exhibits by the renowned printmaker, Laura Boswell. This is Laura's first show in a public gallery. The display captures the stunning Yorkshire and wider landscapes in the traditional Japanese medium of coloured woodblock prints.

The exhibition runs until early 2022, and is a display that you will go back to time and time again. 

It was a privilege to have the opportunity to meet and chat to Jane Irisa and hear the comments from Helena Cox of how the exhibition came together. Not only are the exhibits stunningly displayed, but the stories behind the exhibits bring Japanese culture to life here in Beverley. 

Just Beverley