Tokyo University of The Arts visits Central St. Martins: Part 1

Over the coming weeks we will be hearing about the exchange of MA Fine Artists from CSM with Tokyo University of the Arts. Eva, one of our content developers, will be keeping us up to date and informed about the success of the trip. 

This year I am taking part in a project with 5 other students from Central Saint Martins MA Fine Art and 6 students from Tokyo University of The Arts. The project is called ‘Complex Topographies’ and will culminate in a group show in The Ritsurin Garden’s in Takamatsu, Japan. The project began in August with a visit from the TUA students to London lasting two weeks, where we began research for our Garden Themed exhibition.

Day 1

AM: In the morning we met the TUA students and staff for the first time. After introductions we took our visitors on a tour of the CSM campus after which, students from TUA gave presentations on their practice.

PM: CSM students gave practice presentations. The presentations were only 5 minutes long and this was strictly adhered to (something I wish would happen more on the MA!) as the TUA students were jet lagged and we had to allow time for translation.

Afterwards all the students took part in a drawing workshop, hosted by Ojun Sensei from TUA. We were given a group of 8 words like ‘Smell’, ‘Eating’, ‘Distance’ to choose from and had to draw pictures based on these words with the materials provided. For a lot of the students, our practices have evolved to the point where we rarely draw or paint. It took me a few minutes to be able to pick up a paintbrush and I’m ashamed to admit that the work I produced looked like something a five-year-old would bring home from school. The exercise reminded me that a love of drawing is the thing that made me pursue a career in art in the first place so I really ought to practice and regain that skill – although that may have been the last time I pick up a paintbrush.


Day 2

AM: The morning began with presentations from two staff from TUA – Shihoko Iida, Curator and Ojun Sensei, Artist about their practices.

After coffee, the students from TUA gave presentations on the Ritsurin Gardens. The students shared pictures and plans of the exhibition spaces, the History of the Garden and a soundscape of the gardens where we could hear cicadas, birds and sirens.

PM: We participated in a workshop organised by Mark Dunhill – Dean of CSM and his partner Tamika O’Brien. In pairs, we each started a drawing in silence and then swapped paper when a bell rang. Then we were taken to our studio spaces where we were presented with a set of tools and materials and objects which we were to use to make a Garden themed installation.

When we started working my partner, Koichi and I immediately picked up different objects and started doing separate things. I found that his style was very minimal and he had a very strong, clean aesthetic style. In order to encourage collaboration, I asked his opinion on what I was doing and tried to offer suggestions and changes to his work but he vetoed everything I suggested. Eventually I decided that I was being too polite and insisted on interrupting the nice neat work a little bit and adding a bit of mess and chaos. In the end my partner was happy to just go with it and we finished up with a well balanced piece that included elements of both of our styles in the work.


A party in the staff club was arranged for the evening with pies from Pieminster and some craft beer. Some of the TUA students weren’t so sure about the mushy peas, I was about to explain mushy peas and when I thought about them I realised I couldn’t really justify why we eat overcooked, bland mushed up vegetables – it seemed so strange.


Day 3

We heard from Jeremy Till – Head of CSM in the morning, talking about ‘The Renaissance Garden’. Having the lecture broken down into short paragraphs with time to digest it while translation took place really helped me to process the information I was receiving. A lot of people on our course are dyslexic or speak English as a second language, so I wasn’t the only one who thought so!

In the afternoon we had a self directed study session so I headed up to the library to have a look at all the books which had been put aside for our project about Japanese Gardens.


On the way home I decided to walk most of the way as I had been sitting inside all day and I stumbled past a garden in Holborn that I had never noticed before called Staple Inn. It’s funny what you don’t see until you start looking for it.


Day 4

I got a little bit lost on my way to Holland Park on my bike and arrived 10 minutes late but soon caught up with the group for our tour by Garden Historian Claire Hickman. My favourite part of the garden was the Japanese inspired garden. We asked the TUA students if the garden was anything like a Japanese garden and they said ‘Not…exactly’. One of the things that broke the façade a bit was all the coins in all the ponds and water features – I bet we won’t see that when we visit gardens in Japan.


After Holland Park we visited the Kensington Roof Top Gardens. The garden was stunning and for once, when you looked up you could see the sky and no other buildings. There were even flamingos up there, it was as if we had been transported to somewhere out of London for an hour.

We walked to Hyde for a picnic and then went on to Buckingham Palace to see the Garden Exhibition at the Queen’s Collection Gallery. I’m not exactly what you would call a Royalist, so it felt a bit strange to be queueing up next to a gift shop that was full of cuddly corgis and Wills ‘n’ Kate mugs.

Considering I’d have never gone to that show of my own accord, I really enjoyed it. There was a picture of a bird’s eye view of Hampton Court Palace with a huge maze and wilderness which really inspired me to visit there.


Day 5



We were given a free day on Saturday. It was recommended that we visited Kew gardens for our research but as I had been to Kew many times I decided to visit Hampton Court Palace Gardens instead.

At Hampton Court I went straight to the maze which was kind of underwhelming – I found the centre in a few minutes. The maze is no longer the centre of The Wilderness so was no where near as epic as it looked in the picture I had seen at Buckingham Palace. Still, the gardens were pretty amazing, I particularly enjoyed all the weirdly trimmed trees and hedges.

After cycling all the way back to Peckham from Hampton Court I showered and went straight back out in record time to meet some of the CSMTUA students in Brick Lane for a beer and a curry. Over dinner the TUA students told us what they had been up to all day. Some had been to Kew, others Chiswick house – which I had never heard of, but now I really want to visit as Koichi informed me that Chiswick House was one of the first landscaped garden of this country.


Day 6

We took a trip to the seaside to see Derek Jarman’s Garden in Dungeness. It was one of the stranger seaside places I’ve been to. The pebbled beach was like a grave yard for fishing boats and there was a huge nuclear power station looming in the background. There were loads of cool individually built houses right on the beach.

It was absolutely typical weather for a day on the British Coast, grey wet and windy – very authentic, but not the best weather for our group – half of which were recovering or coming down with flu like symptoms.

I went with Taku and Koichi to get fish and chips – it had to be done. The two TUA students asked me quite a few questions about the place we were in and I had to explain that I had never been there before, nor heard of it and that it was nothing like any other seaside place I’ve ever been to in the UK so instead I tried to describe what a typical coastal town in East Yorkshire is like, a topic that I have expert knowledge on, having grown up there.

True to form, the second we decided to leave the seaside. take our fish and chips to go and get back in the van the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out. So in the end I felt satisfied that in the end, everyone from TUA had experienced exactly what a typical British day at the seaside is like.