Non-Western Art: Modern Japan

For this non-western collection I’ve chosen modern Japan as my focus. I’ve a minor in Asian Studies so it seemed like a natural choice. One thing I enjoy about Japanese culture is the easy juxtaposition between traditional and cutting edge. All the works I’ve chosen for this display have that element of new and old working together.

Cloud Leopard, 2012 – Nahoko Kojima

Paper Cut Art, Kirie in Japan, is art made by cutting paper. It has been around for at least 1500 years (W). It is practiced in many cultures around the world.

Nahoko Kojima was born in 1981, in Hyogo, Japan (NK). She started learning Kirie at the age of 5 (NK). She graduated from Kuwasawa Institute in Tokyo in 2004 (NK). She currently lives in London and has become renowned for her “pioneering work in Paper Cut as Sculpture” (NK). Some of her other works include a swimming polar bear, and a bald eagle.

Her sculpture Cloud Leopard was completed in 2012. It took five months, and was cut from a single sheet of black paper (NK). I’ve embedded the video from her site that gives a look at the work from several angles, and includes the Nahoko Kojima talking about the work and Paper Cut Art in general.


What I like about Cloud Leopard is the detail in the work: the wisps in the tail, the spots along the body. It is evident that Kojima really thought about both the negative and positive space in designing this work. I also like surrealistic quality it has a sculpture. From certain angles it looks like a traditional flat Paper Cut work, but moving around changes the perspective. It is hard to believe that Cloud Leopard was cut from a single sheet of paper.

Journey to Seven Light Bay, 2013 – Mariko Mori

Journey to Seven Light Bay is an all-digital accompaniment to Primal Rhythm, a permanent art instillation in Seven Light Bay, Japan (FAOU). The video allows viewers to see what the eventual finished instillation will look like, and includes Mariko Mori talking about the piece. It was shown as part of “Rebirth” Mori’s exhibition at Japan Society, October 11, 2013 to January 12, 2014 (SM).

Mariko Mori was born in 1967, and is one of the most well known Japanese artists (SM). Previously her works centered on pop-culture and traditional Japanese identity. Her recent works are a blend of spiritual ideals, marine science, astrophysics, and primitive culture (SM). She is in the midst of an ambitious project that will include six permanent out door installations, one on each inhabited continent (FAOU). Mori’s goal is to “express the importance of us sharing our surroundings with the earth, maintaining a harmonious relationship with these delicate environments, and to present the concept of earth-consciousness” (FAOU).


The thing that I like about this instillation is that it is based on Winter Solstice and its symbolism of rebirth. As someone who’s lived in Alaska a long time, the Winter Solstice is an important event to me. I also like the idea that the moon stone will change with the tides, floating next to a natural outcropping. Currently only the finished part of the instillation is the sand pillar, a layered acrylic 4 meter tall, 3-ton column, but I’m hoping to see this realized sooner than later (FAOU).

Twisted CircleCosmoscapeSugizo

My last work is Sugizo’s “Twisted Circle” from the 2008 album Cosmoscape. The album was a compilation of his solo work (Sugizo). The video I’ve embedded is from his concert DVD “Rise to Cosmic Dance” which came out in 2009.

Sugizo is a prolific artist and performer, born in 1969. He trained in violin, classical music, and composition from a young age (S). He made his debut with the band Luna Sea in 1992; he was the “composer, guitarist, and violinist” until Luna Sea disbanded in 2000 (S). After their disbandment he branched out into “soundtracks, acting, and contemporary dance” (S).

Besides solo work he is currently involved with the “trance techno band Juno Reactor, psychedelic jam band SHAG, shamanic electronica unit S.T.K.(Sensual Technology Kooks), and S.K.I.N.” as well as X JAPAN” (S).


I’m a bit of a sucker for “orchestral” instruments used in modern music, ala Apocalyptica. I actually enjoy the entire concert but this is my favorite song because of the violin and voice elements being so central. What I really enjoy about this song is that it mixes violin with trumpet, drums, non-lyrical voice, double bass, guitar and other electronic instruments. The mix adds a complexity that is really nice. I also enjoy the way the music is spacey and a bit new age spiritual, but uses old techniques—like the non-lyrical voice.

Works Cited

“The Artist” Nahoko Kojima. Nahoko Kojima. N.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

“Profile” Sugizo. Soul’s Mate & Sugizo. N.d. Web. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

“Project” Faou Foundation. Faou Foundation. N.d. Web. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

“Rebirth: Recent Work by Mariko Mori” Streaming Museum. Streaming Museum N.d. Web. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

Wikipedia contributors. “Papercutting.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

5 Comments on “Non-Western Art: Modern Japan

  1. Cloud Leopard is certainly full of so much detail, the perspective certainly does change when moved around. I haven’t seen anything like it.

  2. I also love Mori’s Goal, and I also support the importance of our environment and the need to take care of it. The work you chose was very neat too see on your blog! Nice job. I am curious to how long it will be before Mori finishes the instillation? I liked how your work was a mixed but yet tied back to the Japan, non-western culture.

  3. WOW! Awesome Blog, it was very informative. “Twisted Circle” Cosmoscape – Sugizo was my favorite. The music is not really my style, but I love learning new things everyday. I wrote about Japan Anime, Japan is very talented! I like how all the art was so different, yet it was all brought back to non-western culture. My favorite part of Journey to Seven Light Bay is that it is based on Winter Solstice and its symbolism of rebirth. Great job on the blog. I found some great information on Journey to Seven Light Bay at

  4. I really enjoyed the entry you have about Cloud Leopard. That artwork is not only amazing because of it’s aesthetic beauty but because of the patience and care it must have take to cut it out of one piece and void mistakes that would have destroyed his work. Pretty cool.

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