The installation on the ground floor by the exhibition curator Hara Kenya sets the tone. Shishiodoshi (so wonderfully omnomatopoeic!) was inspired by the traditional Japanese bird scarer, where water transfers from one bamboo tube to another, causing the empty tube to hit a rock, making a noise. Here, a glass tube hits a metal plate, releasing water that breaks into droplets as it hits a series of paper protrusions – rather like a pachinko game.
Downstairs, several creations by Japanese artists embody the painstaking national and individual commitment to craftsmanship.
Misawa Haruka’s paper flowers look like pencil shavings – and indeed are made in the same way. Printing paper with a colour gradation, gluing it and wrapping it to form a pencil-like form, and then sharpening it like a pencil, produces these exquisite flowers made of multi-layered paper.
“Spring” by Ishigami Junya is an extraordinary piece made by cutting out the shapes of leaf shoots on 10,000 strips of paper and then gluing them together to create what looks like a sheet of tiny paper cress.
“Control” by Nakamura Ryuji explores what happens if the looseness and flexibility of paper is tightly controlled – does it appear to be another material? Gluing together a series of paper rings at certain points produces something that feels more like delicate chain mail rather than a floppy newspaper.
The materiality of paper is also explored in several small collections. Creating a fold in a piece of paper is irreversible, changing the paper forever, but it also creates an interior, “wrapping the object and offering it as a gift”.
Translucent paper allows you to see through to the other side, engendering a feeling of doubt, encircling objects like a layer of fog.
There are also some fantastic commercial paper lace doilies (as we used to call them), and some laser-cut designs by Hara Kenya inspired by microscopic plankton.
There are also some wonderful paper samples in the shop, as well as lots of other gorgeous items, so leave time for that!
Subtle runs at Japan House, London, until 24 December 2018.