Design And Planet at Asian Studies Group: Japanese approach to environmental sustainability

April is the month of Design for Milano Genius 2019. The last of the themes of the Open Call, Design Made in Osaka, a project produced by Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka and coordinated by Asian Studies Group, is presented at Milano Design Week 2019 under the name of Design and Planet with a focus on the delicate but important theme of eco-sustainability.

As for the European presented in Osaka on November 3rd 2018 at the Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka, this time Milano Genius 2019 allows young Japanese designers to introduce their own work on the theme of environment and sustainability, so as to favor a renewed cultural exchange between Osaka and Milan, twin cities.

Despite the small number of projects selected for this theme, they are closely linked by two different ways of approaching the topic, with a style that reflects the difference in age and path of the artists.

The selected works will be exhibited at the colorful theatrical space of Corte dei Miracoli (Via Mortara 4, Milan) and at the Milan headquarters of Asian Studies Group (Via Eustachi 9, Milan) from 9th to 14th April partecipating to Milano Design Week 2019.

Mayumi Kuwayama with “Molecules”

Mayumi Kuwayama is a contemporary artist born in Osaka. Despite her young age she does installation art and object creation in various spaces such as hotels, shops and department stores. In collaboration with Re: fa, a Japanese company that creates innovative chairs and sofas but that also replaces them by old design pieces and fabrics, has given life to “Molecules” a chair created by the union of small fragments of recycled fabric coming from industrial and home processing.

All the pieces, joined together, like many small molecules, allow the structure of the seat to vary continuously and in an agile way, depending on how it is assembled, to satisfy the desire of personalization of each of us.

The flexibility of the work and the recycled material, assembled in a rather simple but carefully studied manner, have allowed the reuse of otherwise useless material giving them new life and new possibilities of expression.

Mayumi Kuwayama and Re: Fa have therefore given a particularly modern look to the issue of eco-sustainability. An eco-sustainability that meets the needs of contemporary man who requires customization and the possibility of changing the environment, even the seat, according to his taste.

Wataru Kurogi With “Endangered Insect”

Under a completely different perspective, the work of Wataru Kurogi, a 22-year-old student attending to design course at the Art University in Osaka, called Endangered Insect attempted to show the extraordinary beauty of some endangered species generally not advertised and welcomed by the general public.

In fact, when we think about endangered animals, we underestimate the importance and beauty of small-size animals. This is especially true for insects that most people feel disgusted with.

This project allows the audience to appreciate such species that are frequently forgotten by the public and the attention of the media rather for the large mammals featured in numerous films and documentaries.

A design that wants to attract attention and presents a theme under a different vision from the common perspective. Despite the very young age, the designer’s eyes have shown a strong ability to know and see the environment in its most intrinsic beauty, an ability usually belonging to individuals of a more advanced age. A design that therefore wants to amaze and, above all, to teach.

Two artists from two different generations who dialogue with each other and who want to emphasize the importance of eco-sustainability both in inanimate things and in animate beings.

Milan, central pole for the development of Asian culture

There is no doubt that Milan, as the big metropolis that it is, represents a reference point in Italy when it comes to spreading foreign cultures and traditions. As a matter of fact, the city strongly contributes to raise awareness about cultures far from ours through the promotion of a variety of events and projects organized by different institutions over the year.

In the last few years, the Asian scenario has been given special attention and countries like Japan, China and Korea have started to become popular especially among young people, who became interested in learning not only their languages, but also their customs and tradition.

It is such an interesting panorama that allows Milan to be recognized as central pole for cultural education and exchange.

Among the many organizations based in Milan that deal with Far East countries, Asian Studies Group, with its many high quality cultural activities and projects, surely represents a cornerstone in this field.

In particular, the project scheduled for this year named  Milano Genius 2019 (supported by the Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka and coordinated by Asian Studies Group) aims to accentuate an occasion of comparison, collaboration and development of creative topics between the municipalities of Milan and Osaka and to encourage opportunities of cultural exchange and co – operation beyond geographic and cultural boundaries.

In order to be able to enclose all types of cultural and artistic production, Milano Genius 2019 will be presenting events and exhibitions in Osaka. The Japanese city will be hosting EXPO 2025 and shares the twinning status with the city of Milan (host of EXPO 2015). This double link contributes to strengthen the bond between the two locations and to promote occasions of mutual cultural exchange.

In fact, the concept of culture includes a variety of artistic fields that it is always useful to keep in mind: Contemporary Art, Theatre, Photography, Music and Design are all important elements that need to be considered as a vivid expression of lifestyles and traditions of a specific population that can widen not only our general knowledge of the world but also our personal way of conceiving our own culture.

From this assumption, it is important to understand that wanting to learn more about a foreign culture only becomes possible when the surrounding environment offers the right conditions to do it.

The city of Milan has been dedicating efforts and energies to this purpose, fostering events like exhibitions by Japanese artists and designers, music festivals, theatrical representations, concerts, open seminars to promote Far East performers and help the audience to go beyond the mere conception of entertainment and discover the allure within the Asian culture.

Opera Unica featuring Milano Genius 2019: introducing Filippo Cristini

Milano Genius 2019 represents the ultimate emblem of artistic expressions in every field, from design and theater to contemporary art. Thanks to the support of the Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka and the coordination of Asian Studies Group, a series of selected Italian artists will be presented during several cultural events in the city of Osaka.

As indicated in the programme of the project, the month of February will be dedicated to contemporary art, thanks to Opera Unica featuring Milano Genius 2019, the event that will take place from February 22nd to March 7th at Spazio Arte and during which the Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka presents the artworks of Filippo Cristini, young Italian artist who joined the Switch on Your Creativity hub (4th edition).

Filippo Cristini is a talented artist who lives and works in Milan. Graduated in Philosophy in 2014 at the University of Pavia, he currently attends a master degree at Brera Academy of Fine Arts. The opportunity given him by Opera Unica  surely represents an important chance in his career to gain international visibility and reach a wider audience.

He expresses his satisfaction with regard to the project and is also willing to briefly present the artwork that he is going to present in Osaka, named “The Sheltering Sky”.

The Sheltering Sky (100 x 120) by Filippo Cristini

Regarding the artwork, he explains that “The Sheltering Sky’ is one of my last series of artworks dedicated to the landscape and, after more than a year since its creation I now realize, clearer than then, how this work represents a synthesis of the themes I was interested in at that time. The research regards a series of opposite couples: open/closed, nature/artifice, project/spontaneity, air/land and the title offers an important and not univocal instrument, an interpretative key for the artwork. This “sheltering sky” evokes, more in English than in Italian, the two fundamental elements that the artworks consist of: an aerial prospective of anonymous landscapes and  plants from anti – aerial refuges in Milan in the 1940s”.     

Huge influence for his artistic creation is the Milanese context, where Filippo Cristini lives and works. As a result, he has been specially chosen for Milano Genius 2019 due to his strong artistic bond with the Italian city. His ability to reinterpret in a subjective and introspective way traditional symbols and landscapes of Milan is what contributes to conceive his artistic production as a representation of his ego and as a concrete sign of how space is able to inspire artists in their representations.

“Pietra Nebbia Acciaio” (1024 x 1008) by Filippo Cristini

Examining the artwork in further detail, the author describes his artwork as “a distorted vision, on one hand the vision from above and on the other hand a sort of careful analysis of the ground”.  He then adds “I like to think about “The Sheltering Sky” as a series of ripped frescos in which the historic and the pictorial dimensions overlap in various meaningful layers.  The white sign that represents the map of the refuges I wanted to interrupt the naturalistic vision of the landscape and, at the same time, distance from the traditional representation of urban spaces, almost considering the planimetry as the nearest element to represent instead of the space intended as a concept”.

When asked about the influence of the city on his artworks he claims that “In Italy, the Milanese context is undoubtedly very lively if not the liveliest from the artistic point of view” and such a stimulating environment contributes to his artistic flair “Spending time with friends and other artists during exhibitions and opening ceremonies is always an occasion of incentive and exchange in terms of new working and artistic directions”.

“Il sogno assiromilanese” (1024 x 960), 2017 by Filippo Cristini

The artist also underlines a central belief according to which “The globalization and the influence of Internet have had a huge impact on our way of conceiving images. The artistic practice cannot remain indifferent to this fact, and fortunately it has not happened”.

Despite this fact, Filippo Cristini is convinced that “the artistic enjoyment offered in person still has its sense”, even more so in a society where “ we have immediate access to everything and in every part of the world”.

The bliss and feeling that the artistic practice is able to provide to its audience seems therefore invaluable, and that is exactly what Opera Unica and Milano Genius aim to protect and celebrate.