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Colourful Shadows by nendo for EXPO Milano 2015

Daici Ano

Japanese studio nendo has realized ‘Colorful Shadows’, a gallery space to present a range of tableware within the Japan pavilion at EXPO Milano 2015. The gallery space is approximately 11x3m, and a long black dining table, with 24 accompanying black chairs, has been placed in it as an exhibition stage to fit with the elongated shape of the room. The table and chairs gradually increase in height the further into the room one goes, playing with the spectator’s sense of perspective as well as allowing him/her to look over all the items on display from the gallery entrance.


However, as the products can not be seen in detail from the entrance, visitors may get curious and walk toward to see what they are. The chairs can be used as stepladders on which visitors may freely stand to inspect individual items more closely. Although resembling an ordinary dinner table, by experimenting with the functional relationship between tables and chairs, the end result is a uniquely conceptual exhibition space that enables the spectator to view all of the products from various angles and distances.


All the items exhibited are new designs, each one produced in collaboration with a different traditional Japanese craft or local industry. Furthermore, they all demonstrate the characteristically painstaking processes and techniques of Japanese craftsmanship in their material and textural finishes. To best convey this wonderful attention to detail, the items on display are all black in colour.


In the novelist Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay ‘In Praise of Shadows’, there is a passage about eating a yokan (a traditional sweet made from black bean paste) in the dark in order to develop a keener palette, just as in this exhibition, all information pertaining to colour has been removed to encourage the spectator to focus on other more essential aspects of the exhibited pieces. The idea is that the more closely one looks into the dark shades of something, the more one becomes aware of the rich colours hidden therein, and this is the concept behind the exhibition name ‘colourful shadows’; an attempt to shed some light on intricacies of Japanese craftsmanship that remain, as it were, hidden in the dark from the rest of the world.

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all images © Daici Ano