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Anno Moyoco & Kitagawa Utamaro ”The Ukiyoe Courtesan”
Written by In the document   
Published: September 02 2016

Anno Moyoco "Sakuran",ukiyo-e style woodcut print in "Echizen Kizuki Hosho Washi" made by living national treasure Mr.Ichibei Iwano,2016 © Moyoco Anno / Cork, Courtesy of AI KOWADA GALLERY

AI KOWADA GALLERY is pleased to present ANNO Moyoco and Utamaro KITAGAWA" The Courtesans in Ukiyo-e".

Back in the eighteenth century, Utamaro Kitagawa, the legendary ukiyoe artist vividly depicted the idealized images of the beautiful courtesans who in reality were suffering a tough life in Yoshihara: Edo’s expensive and high-class red light district authorized by the Tokugawa shogunate.

The artist served the mass’s fantasy for Yoshihara and its inhabitants with his inexpensive small format prints that were available for the common people of that time at very cheap prices which functioned like movie stars’ publicity shots of today.

On the other hand, ANNO Moyoco (b.1971), the charismatic contemporary Japanese story ‘manga’ artist, has chosen as her protagonists, the prostitutes from different eras and parts of the world in her two blockbuster manga series: “Sakuran” and “Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen”.

This exhibition presents Anno’s woodblock print portraits of her heroines from the aforementioned two mangas created in the method of authentic ukiyoe production using printing blocks made of cherry tree wood.

The production was done with the help of an artisan who specialises in making accurate reproductions of the works by famous ukiyoe artists such as Hokusai, Utamaro, Hiroshige and Sharaku, as well as serving as a master printer for the contemporary painters of international recognition like Kusama Yayoi.

The original prints by Anno will be shown alongside the Utamaro prints skillfully reproduced by the master printer. Thus, with about ten works made by the top creators of the mass art from the two separate eras, the show aims to provide a unique chance for the viewers to contemplate the ideals of the feminine beauty in Japanese popular culture from the past and the present.

Recently, Anno’s art was recognised as having artistic value by Mika Ninagawa,the well-known photographer and the Honolulu Museum of Art, which holds the third largest collection of ukiyoe in the US.

The former, by making ‘Sakuran’ into an artistic film; and the latter, by including Anno’s art in its collection. The key for such acclaim seems to be Anno’s unique treatment of the subject of prostitution that relates the situation of the girls in the business to that of other young women striving to survive in the contemporary society whom Anno has so well portrayed in many of her other stories.

“To be honest, I know that getting a boyfriend is not really a guarantee for a happy life.” (Happy Mania)
“I wanna be able to think while lying on my death bed, that I had really devoted myself to my professional life" (Hataraki Man)
“If I get thin, I would grasp a happiness that shines so much more than the life I have now.”(In Clothes Called Fat)

The above quotes of Anno’s heroines reveal how they chase after the illusion of happiness that does not really exist while trapped in the system of the contemporary world just like Utamaro’s courtesans who yearned for the freedom outside the strict agreement made between their relatives and the brothel.

By looking at the images of the unrealistically elegant courtesans on two dimensional formats, we may ask for ourselves, how much freedom have women gained in the past two hundred years both inside and outside Japan? Can humans ever be free from the society they belong to?

ANNO Moyoco
A Japanese manga artist born in 1971 in Tokyo.
She won Kodansha’s 29th manga Award. Her mega hit serialised manga work “Happy Mania” from 1995 which was made into a TV drama broadcasted on Fuji Television Network. Another of her serialised work “The Workaholic” from 2006 was made into an animation drama shown on the same network. The work was also made into a TV drama series broadcasted via Nippon Television Network. In 2007, Mika NINAGAWA made the live action film of “Sakuran”.


Information Provided by: AI KOWADA GALLERY

The first period: September 17,2016 (Sat) 〜 September 25,2016 (Sun)
The second period: October 15 (Sat), 16(Sun), 22(Sat), 23(Sun), 29(Sat), 30(Sun), 2016
Hours: 1400-1800
Closed: Open every day.

Last Updated on September 17 2016

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