Stars of the Tokyo stage: Natori Shunsen's kabuki actor prints at RMIT Gallery (29 June - 25 August) reveals the dynamic world of Japan's kabuki theatre.
Exclusively from the National Gallery of Australia collection, Stars of the Tokyo stage explores kabuki and modern Japanese printmaking in the context of the astounding changes taking place in Tokyo as the 20th century unfolded through superb actor portrait prints created by artist Natori Shunsen in the 1920s and 30s. This is the first time a complete set of prints by Shunsen (1886-1960) has been exhibited in Australia.
RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said she was delighted the University would have the chance to delve into an important facet of Japan's cultural history by showing such significant works.
"These stunning prints by Natori Shunsen have an abiding relevance to today's fashion and popular culture," Ms Davies said.
"We can see the design aesthetic continuing to resonate in the 2012 film The Hunger Games, where the use of the stylisation of Japanese kabuki design in the costume and makeup of the city elite provides clever visual cues about power."
Stars of the Tokyo stage will feature a selection of spectacular kabuki robes, which are rarely seen off the stage,
"This will further illustrate and gives context to the extravagance of this theatrical form," Ms Davies said.
The exhibition will be opened at RMIT Gallery on Thursday, 28 June (6pm-8pm) by Hidenobu Sobashima, Consul-General of Japan.
RMIT Gallery is the first destination for the travelling exhibition, which features 47 precious prints and seven stunning, rare costumes and provides a striking insight into the world of Kabuki.
"Stars of the Tokyo stage will no doubt entice and enthral visitors to the exhibition," Ron Radford AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia, said.
"The drama, spectacle and excitement of Kabuki will be conveyed through rare prints and costumes, none of which have been displayed outside the National Gallery of Australia, and the exhibition encapsulates the power and intensity of this world renowned art form."
An inspiration to artists for centuries, kabuki draws on Japan's rich folklore, literature and history, as well as violent, romantic and scandalous events, to present lavish dramatic performances.
Kabuki actors - the movie stars of their day - were wildly popular for flamboyant portrayals, extraordinary characters and colourful personal lives.
Shunsen's prints provide a fascinating glimpse into this glamorous world, while demonstrating consummate mastery of traditional Japanese printmaking techniques.
The exhibition has been curated by Lucie Folan, Curator, Asian Art, National Gallery of Australia and is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue, as well as primary and secondary education resources.
Ms Folan will present a free curator talk at RMIT Gallery on Thursday, 26 July (12pm - 1pm), exploring the background to the exhibition. Bookings essential: (03) 9925 1717.
Stars of the Tokyo stage: Natori Shunsen's kabuki actor prints
A National Gallery of Australia Exhibition.
This exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians; and Visions of Australia, an Australian Government Program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of cultural material across Australia. The exhibition is also supported by Media Partner ABC Local Radio.
The National Gallery of Australia is an Australian Government Agency.
For interviews: Evelyn Tsitas, Media Coordinator, RMIT Gallery, 0418 139 015 or (03) 9925 1716.