Chiyo, chiyo, chiyo is the sound birds
make in Japanese. Artist, Nagai Mei, ascribes this sound to a gaggle of
dark suited businessmen as they saunter down the street. Each of her paintings
has a few words painted on them. They are usually snippets of conversation
- 'Flathead (fish) were they?' 'One more to go', or 'liar'. Words uttered
in the street and overheard by the artist.
Nagai Mei has an uncanny knack to capture what is unique about the everyday
life in Japan. Nagai is a Japanese artist with training in London and
now based in Europe. She has an outsider's eye for the unusual and an
insider's knowledge of life in Japan, which makes her work particularly
poignant. Her exhibition is a personal dairy of a day in Japan.
Around the walls are 23 panels, which make her visual record of the day.
Each panel has a line drawing of an incident, a person met or an episode
glimpsed. Each image has a few words Ð katakana or hiragana Ð recording
part of a conversation or sound.
Nagai Mei sees the experience as a 'safari', a journey of exploration.
To celebrate this expedition-like aspect of the exhibition she has included
a huge, life-size, charcoal drawing on paper of an African elephant. It
dominates the center of the room and you circumnavigate it as you follow
the image series around the gallery walls.
Her drawing/paintings are very simple. On shiny white panels are black
outlines in enamel paint of people and events. These spare outlines contain
no unnecessary detail. It is the simplicity of the work that gives it
a special power of acute observation. Nagai Mei captures the essence of
urban contemporary Japan. Her works turn ordinary events into extraordinary