A mosaic of manga

Manga of the past and present come together at a show that celebrates the work of Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai

October 21, 2022 03:33 pm | Updated 04:20 pm IST

Visitors look at the Manga Hokusai Exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi

Visitors look at the Manga Hokusai Exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

The traveling exhibition Manga Hokusai is emblematic of manga’s visceral and pictorial storytelling. Organised by the Consulate-General of Japan, Chennai, and ABK-AOTS Dosakai, Tamil Nadu, the artistic work brings together Katsushika Hokusai’s ukiyo-e creatives and contemporary works in the field. 

“Today’s manga producers are aware of Hokusai, so there is a dialogue between painters of the past and today’s manga creators who are influenced by them,” says Taga Masayuki, Consul General of Japan, Chennai.

The role of the master in manga is a lot like his famed piece The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, whose waves have gone on to define the meridians of contemporary manga. His body of work holds within its simple lines the convolutions of history, internal contradictions of human nature, comic elements and caricatures. Hokusai has a special collection of 4,000 images in 800 pages, published in 15 volumes popularly known as Hokusai Manga

Visitors look at the Manga Hokusai Exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai on Tuesday.

Visitors look at the Manga Hokusai Exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

Inoue Miyuki, Researcher/Adviser at the Culture and Information Section remarked that, “Manga is more like a cultural reading, more fun but Hokusai is more artistic. Manga is a comic strip of people but Hokusai is an artist who also draws Manga.” 

The exhibition features original works by contemporary manga artists such as Shiriagari Kotobuki, Yokoyama Yuichi, Nishijima Daisuke, Igarashi Daisuke, Okadaya Tetuzoh, Ichikawa Haruka and KYO Machiko. Manga artists from different periods also find place. Uagawa Kuniyoshi, Oei (the master’s daughter), Suguira Hinako, Sakura Sawa, Okadaya Tetuzoh, Saeki Konosuke and Kamimura Kazuo, amongst others, are on display.  

Utagawa Kunisada’s The Story of Of Usa and her Lover Tokubee is vibrant and colourful and has Japanese inscriptions along its length and breadth. It is imbued with delicate and expressive emotions of four kimono-clad women who adorn the piece. The complexity of their feelings can only be felt in silence. 

The exhibition offers a breakdown of significant panels, speech balloons and onomatopoeias used in manga comics. For instance, every onomatopoeia employed contains intricate designs, a brocade of emotions distilled in font and presentation. Suzuki Mitsuzaki’s Introduction to Girls Comics is one such piece which ebbs with sound and sizzle.

Contemporary artist KYO Machiko’s Innocent Toys presents a mosaic of everyday activities which produces curious overlaps. A pastiche at best, the piece presents fragments of people and objects which together portray the dizzying worlds that make us and break us.  

The exhibition creates a space for the audience to observe the details and the evolving subjects which punctuate the manga of the past and present. It seeks to celebrate the subjects that define the limits of the artform. 

Ukiyo-e translates to ‘pictures of the floating world’. Ukiyo-e laid the foundation for the Manga movement in Japan. The tradition was followed by master Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa and artist Hiroshige’s The Fifty three Stations of the Tokaido. Manga is a coming together of all that is fragile, whimsical, funny, prosaic and entertaining. It paves a brave and revolutionary artistic inroad into a world that transforms the fleeting into something enduring, abiding and artistic.

Manga Hokusai is on till October 28 at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road.

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