A ground-breaking exhibition of comic art by Fumio Obata, On the Palm of Unknown, has gone on display at the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven, Cumbria, running until 25th March 2018.
Commissioned by Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, the art project makes surprising connections between the nuclear plants at Fukushima and Sellafield.
Originally from Japan, Fumio has spent years researching the aftermath of the devastation caused by a massive tsunami at the Fukushima power plant in 2011. In experimental and abstract artworks Fumio explores the invisible connections and sentiments between the two different worlds.
“This is an abstract look at the effect of the nuclear industry, but done in a remarkably balanced way,” says Alan Irwin, the Beacon Museum’s Business Development Manager.
“Mr Obata has used a wide array of media to engage different attitudes and perceptions of not only the Fukushima disaster, but also what the industry means to Cumbrian people in day to day life.”
Without taking a political position, the graphic novelist reflects the ambivalent and mixed opinions people have about nuclear industry in a comic strip format, based upon his own interviews with workers and locals.
Supporters of this exhibition have included the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Sellafield Ltd and CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment).
Interviewed last year, Fumo says “I struggled to put the subject into context and cohesive narrative, and I blame myself for delaying the production. But I now know I was right to give plenty of time for my own thoughts and ideas to come together.
“It was tempting to jump on to a conclusion and relay on the statements of someone else but I had to tell it in my own words. Digesting and understanding have never taken such a long time for me.”
Fumio is an author whose work and inspiration come from cultural differences and social issues in his surroundings. His art style is influenced by both Japanese and European aesthetics and he explores an idea of pictorial storytelling rather than staying in conventional comic strip format, as his interest spans across various sequential image designs.
Born in Toyko in 1975, Fumio came to the UK when he was 16 years old and completed his BA Illustration degree at Glasgow School of Art and a Master degree in Communication Design from Royal College of Art in London. He then pursued his comic book career here in the UK after realising there were more challenges in Europe than his home country, Japan.
His graphic novels Just So Happens, published in the UK by Jonathan Cape, has won many high acclaims and been translated and published in eight different countries.
He also has a career as an animator. Between 2003 and 2008 he worked with Duran Duran, Channel4, and joined Redkite Animations in Edinburgh in 2006, working on a number of joint projects with Beano publisher DC Thomson. Between 2008-9, he completed a comic artist residency at La Maison Des Auteurs (The House of Authors) in Angoulême, France – a renowned programme organised by La Cité Internationale de la Bande Desinée et de l’image.
In 2013, he was offered a senior lecturer post for the BA Illustration course at the University of Gloucestershire in England and currently supporting young talents to develop their own/unique artistic voices in various sequential contexts such as animation, graphic novel and children’s books.
• For more information on the visit www.thebeacon-whitehaven.co.uk
FUMIO OBATA ONLINE
There is a short documentary about Retour au Kosovo on YouTube here