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‘Reflections of Japan in East Yorkshire’ exhibition coming soon to Beverley Art Gallery



Opening on Saturday, 16 October at Beverley Art Gallery will be ‘Reflections of Japan in East Yorkshire’, a unique exhibition bringing together a selection of items from private collections across East Yorkshire and artwork by Laura Boswell.

The idea for the exhibition came about more than two years ago when the Japanese Embassy introduced the ‘Japan-UK Season of Culture’, a celebration of the many facets of Japanese culture in the UK.

Beverley Art Gallery was eager to participate in this national opportunity and is pleased to confirm that the upcoming exhibition is indeed one of the official events of the ‘Japan-UK Season of Culture’.

Originally, the exhibition was intended to show a unique collection of toys from the East Riding based collector, Jane Irisa. Then COVID came and the exhibition had to be postponed. During the long lockdowns, curator Helena Cox came up with an idea to widen the exhibition’s appeal, and the gallery ran a call-out on social media, asking East Yorkshire residents to get in touch.

As a result, over the lockdowns, a group of Japan-lovers has been formed with members ranging from Japanese expats to art and craft collectors, those who worked and lived in Japan and who came back to East Yorkshire enriched and inspired by Japanese culture. The group met Helena and over Zoom during the lockdowns and shared their passion and stories about Japan.

Beverley Art Gallery curator Helena Cox explained: “As the lockdowns came to an end, we decided to change the focus of the exhibition and include a wider variety of Japanese items. The core of the exhibition will still be Jane Irisa’s stunning collection of traditional Japanese toys, which she collected from all over Japan during her many journeys there. Jane previously worked in the Oriental and Japanese sections of the British Library, and therefore her collection is brilliantly documented and well researched.

“To accompany this collection, we will be showing a selection of items and stories from private collections, including rare items from the Imperial Court, calligraphy, and decorative items, as well as artwork inspired by Japanese culture and a stunning collection of Japanese vintage kimonos.”

One of the items, on loan from Beverley-born Philip Highy, is a calligraphy he obtained during one of his many visits to Japan, together with the Eton College Chapel Choir.

Helena Cox added : “The calligraphy reads ‘Once in a lifetime experience’ – we sincerely hope that this exhibition will indeed be a unique experience for our visitors, celebrating the rich connections between East Yorkshire and Japan”.

To celebrate the mutual influence between Japan and Great Britain, the Gallery is delighted to present a selection of works by the renowned printmaker, Laura Boswell. Laura will be showing examples of her work capturing the stunning Yorkshire and wider British landscapes in the traditional Japanese medium of coloured woodblock prints. Laura’s long-standing passion for Japan saw her undertake numerous study trips to Japan to emulate the technique. The result is a true meeting of the two cultures, presenting British landscapes with distinctly Japanese optics and aesthetic sensitivity.

The exhibition will also feature reproductions from a book called ‘Omochabako’ illustrated by Kawasaki Kyosen and published in 1924, which includes drawing of 100 traditional Japanese toys. The original book is in the collections of The British Library.

As an audio-visual feature, the exhibition will show a series of video presentations made by Japanese exchange students from Ochanomizu University (Japan) and Hull University, presenting the stories behind traditional Japanese toys and customs. 

The exhibition will open on 16 October, and will run until early 2022. Entry will be free and it is not anticipated that there will be any need to book in advance.

For full details of Beverley Art Gallery (opening hours, location, and facilities), visit:

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