Flights of Artistic Fantasy into Tokyo

By Jo Phillips

Artist Carl Randall’s explores the potent voice in figurative art and produces closely observed vignettes of city life in Japan. Randall suffuses his creations with poignant moments of reality, wherein the figurative work becomes a vehicle for intense artistic expression, and blurs the lines between art and fantasy.

Randall’s extended period of time in Tokyo sparked his interest in cities and portraiture. This led to Tokyo Portraits, as seen through the eyes of the visiting UK artist. Paintings based upon everyday life in Tokyo, depicting people in trains, shops and streets – subtle distortions in space and scale often being used to combine the familiar with a slight sense of the unreal.

Tokyo Subway (2011). Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, Size (height x width): 130cm x 162cm

On one hand, his body of work comprises large panels depicting densely packed groups of faces, inspired by the crowds of Tokyo. Painted mainly in monotone using a variety of materials (oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, Japanese ink on Japanese paper), these artworks are a response to urban issues such as overpopulation, isolation, community, and the anonymity of the city dweller.

Many of the Japan works show groups of people occupying the same close public spaces, yet also isolated from one another – a phenomenon intrinsic to large cities such as Tokyo. And, on the other hand, it combines people and places – narrative figure compositions depicting the human figure within everyday urban and rural Japanese environments.

The Yamanote Line (2010). Medium: Oil on Canvas, Size (height x width): 73cm x 130cm. Images Courtesy of Carl Randall

What is interesting is that all these works were made in collaboration with over a thousand residents of Tokyo city, each volunteering to sit for their portraits (all heads being painted directly from life, without use of photographs).

Paintings and drawings made in Japan will be exhibited at Randall’s solo exhibition, ‘Tokyo Portraits,’ from January 16 to March 12 at The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Japan House, Regents Park, London. The exhibition will also include Japanese ink paintings and smaller individual portraits of Tokyo residents, such as the writer Donald Richie.

For more details on the show, please visit: Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation.

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