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Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

Kafka on the . . . wall

Artist takes inspiration from Murakami


By LUCY BIRMINGHAM FUJII

Scottish artist Jack McLean's exhibition of drawings "Kafka on the...," which runs through Dec. 31 at Artist Residency Tokyo (A.R.T.) Gallery in Tokyo, focuses on two Johnnie Walkers.

One is a character in Haruki Murakami's book "Kafka on the Shore," the other is the real-life Johnnie Walker, one of McLean's friends and collaborators, on whom Murakami based his character. And the real-life Johnnie Walker himself is indeed quite a character. It's no wonder Murakami finds him fascinating. "A crazy, bald gay man wearing half-rimmed glasses, a big monster-like dog, various strange characters, bizarre situations and some real-life celebrities," says McLean of Walker.

Through his A.R.T. Foundation and the A.R.T. Gallery, Walker has helped forge the career of numerous artists. It was Walker who discovered that McLean had a talent for drawing even though the Tokyo-based McLean is better known as a performance artist.

The 32 finely penned drawings in this exhibition at A.R.T. Gallery reflect McLean's penchant for the surreptitious. The originals, drawn on 7 x 11-cm notebook-style paper, lure the viewer in with their stories of sex, perversion, fear, even horror -- all humorous, in an unusual way. They look like manga, but, as McLean states clearly, "My drawings are not cartoons."

McLean was inspired by Walker's connection with many artists. The drawing titled "Johnnie is screaming with Tracey and a monkey" includes Tracey Emin in the center. Some of the drawing is based on Emin's work -- the unmade bed, the biological warfare suits, the tent lined with the names of all the people she slept with and her work based on the iconic image of Edward Munch's "The Scream."

The rest is from McLean's own rich imaginative conceit, a collection of typical gotcha-to-look humorous twists on a potentially revolting images.

Jack McLean's "Kafka on the..." runs through Dec. 31 at A.R.T. Gallery, 2-12-19 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Open Mon.-Fri. from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and by appointment [call (03) 5724-5591].



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