Visual Arts in Nagoya

Only a few can give us the lowdown on Nagoya’s visual art scene and one of these special people is long-time resident, FAE original and artist, James Goater. Here we put the spotlight on foreign art in Nagoya, and his professional work – which, incredibly, speaks for itself.

You are one of the brainchildren of the FAE (Foreign Artists Exhibition). How did it come about?

Nagoya International Center (NIC) was opened in 1984 and had “internationalization” as its watchword. In late 1985, as part of its “internationalizing” activities, a local artist, Barbara Casterline, was invited to give a presentation on her art. Other foreign artists were invited to bring their art, and discuss what they were doing. The result was a lively session and an NIC official who was present, decided (on-the-spot) to invite all foreign artists to organize an exhibition in NIC’s spacious rooms. The intention was a one-off event, but the resulting exhibition, in 1986 was so well-supported that NIC officials asked us to organize a second show… and a third… and a fourth… and now suddenly, 30 years have slipped away.

What’s the Nagoya visual arts scene like?

From a foreign perspective, I can only talk of our experience with the FAE. In the 1980s there were very few galleries open to foreign artists, and very few foreign artists looking for gallery space. But as the gaijin population began to expand, we found more and more serious artists who wanted to expand their horizons beyond the FAE. I think the presence of the FAE gave many foreigners an opportunity to develop their creative instincts and become “artists”. The show expanded annually, both in numbers and in quality of art. We also found that increasingly more artists were able to have shows in local galleries, or in some cases initiate their own art events. We have averaged around 60 artists for the past decade, with at least one third of those becoming permanent residents and regular exhibitors – both at FAE and in their own solo exhibitions. Also, the fact that we have an average of 15 new artists applying to the show every year indicates that the event has become self-sustaining. This is immensely encouraging for the original organizers, and for the future of “gaijin art” in Nagoya.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

Energetic, devoted, passionate, single-minded, industrious, creative – and delusional. I labour under the delusion that what I do is important; when in fact it has very little relevance to the greater problems of the world, or indeed the bigger questions in life.
But in order to create anything, the artist must be fully aware, to be concentrating, and totally “in the moment”, so art enables me to spend most of my days in this frame of mind (that’s maybe why I have forgotten that I am so old!). And I feel a better person for it – although this is open to debate, especially among my closer acquaintances!

Where do you derive your inspiration?

The wider world, especially the rural areas where traditional architecture is still relatively easy to find. But I’ve also embarked upon several series of contrasting subjects, such as a plant series (pen and watercolour), red-lantern bars (aka chochin); a series of sunset skies, in watercolour only, and a figure series, pencil on sepia paper.
What are you currently working on?

I recently completed number 100 of the Chita Peninsula series, started in 2002/3. But there are still many more crumbling and empty structures I plan to do. I’m also including newer buildings in this series, as I find that although people are fascinated by old ruined houses, the sales prospects for paintings of tumbling piles of timber are quite dim! The plant series is going strong; I find that I can incorporate a more decorative approach to this subject matter. I’m also always thinking about the next figure study – whenever I can find a willing model!

Why is art important to you?

By now the production process (seeking subjects, sketching them, then working towards a finished image) has become an intrinsic part of my life. I could never imagine a life without some avenue of creativity. I try to be in touch with this process in one way or another on a daily basis. Keeping an “artist’s eye” on things has led to my becoming an observer of life as a whole, which makes my time on this earth a generally thrilling experience – I’m not ready to swap it for anything else, just yet!

And don’t forget applications for the FAE close on October 25. Put the date below in your diary and celebrate the foreign artists thriving amongst us at the upcoming FAE!

Foreign Artists Exhibition
Nagoya International Center
Tel: 090 1275 9717

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