“I’ve always loved traditional Japanese crafts, namely pottery and woodblock printing. The country is also very beautiful and diverse, with strong contrasts between nature and its modern, technological cities,” says Erin Nicholls, when asked why she has a clear fascination with Japan.
She paints and draws frenzied street scenes of neon-lit Tokyo while capturing the calm and serenity of rural beauty spots, picking out Japan’s beauty, whether urban or natural.”Japan is so different from my home country, Australia,” she tells us. “Their streets are so much more filled with interesting sights: the signs, people, street food, decorations… I’m definitely more focused on urban scenes, as they are so different from what you would see in other countries, whereas trees and mountains are more common. Their street signs are something that particularly stands out to me.”
With each illustration, Erin has the innate ability to mix the old with the new, a contrast that Japan seems to do so well – looking to the future but never forgetting the past. In one of her series, Two Worlds, she focuses on this contrast between traditional and modern. “I think it’s amazing seeing a modern city scene with a Geisha walking down the street, as there is in my work Tokyo Crossing.”
For her series, A Year in Japan, Erin wanted to represent each month of the year and show these contrasts further. But it goes much deeper than this. She wanted to pay homage to Japan’s philosophy on the pathos of life – how we should live in each moment before it is gone forever. “There are strong contrasts in the seasons in Japan, where it can snow in winter and you have the cherry blossoms in spring and beautiful leaves in autumn. I wanted to portray the Japanese phrase ‘mono no aware’, which refers to the ephemeral nature of things, by capturing fleeting moments in time.”
On another level, A Night in Japan, has a darker edge: “I wanted to focus more on images that had strong light and shade, plus were more gritty and industrial, as I wanted to create a series inspired by the film Blade Runner with its neo Tokyo scenes,” she adds.