Unlimited International -Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art

Makoto Okawa was a unique artist who worked in both two and three dimensions. Okawa received a lot of attention for his vivid colours and energetic expression. His ‘Makoot’ (interesting doll) works were his artistic focus since he started making them in 2005.
A selection of work by Makoto Okawa. Left to right, 59 (date not specified), 121 (date not specified), Calm Man (2007).

In part one of our three part series focusing on the first Unlimited International touring partnerships, we take a closer look at visual arts exhibition Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art.

Unlimited’s aims to embed work by disabled artists within the cultural sector, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people took an ambitious, yet vital step forward earlier in the year with the launch of Unlimited International. This programme will extend the global impact of Unlimited by co-commissioning extraordinary English and international disabled artists to further transform the cultural sector worldwide in relation to access and equality. One of these touring partnerships supported by Unlimited has been Nama Āto.

Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art is an exhibition of three Japanese visual artists whose work is being presented in the UK for the first time: Koji Nishioka’s intuitive musical scores related to existing pieces of music but which a pianist may not easily read; Makoto Okawa’s depiction of happiness, sadness and pleasure in his 3D ‘Makoot’ dolls and colourful drawings; Yasuyuki Ueno’s world where preconceived notions of female characters and fashion objects are challenged. All of the artists have learning disabilities, and are supported by Atelier Corners in Osaka Japan, an organisation supporting disabled artists to realise their potential.

Their work is currently being exhibited at Pallant House until the 29th of August before touring to both Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival (5th-12th September) and Tramway’s Unlimited festival (15-2 October) and then exhibiting at the Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester in 2017 (20 January – 12 March).

The value of showcasing this high quality work for both audiences and the artists themselves cannot be understated. Takako Shiraiwa, Atelier Corners president explains: ‘There is a big difference between the upcoming exhibition in London and our previous exhibitions overseas.  What is special about this time, is that our artists actually see their artwork display with their own eyes.’

Jennifer Gilbert, manager at Outside In elaborates that ‘Outside In are thrilled to have been asked to showcase the work of three Japanese artists, whose extraordinary talents have not been seen in the UK before. By touring this work, more audiences will be able to see the three diverse styles and how culture plays a part in all their works.’


As Nishioka’s astigmatism worsens in his left eye, the compositions of his musical score drawings move further to the right. He draws freely, and there is sometimes the idea that the full score won’t fit, but Nishioka somehow ensures it always all fits to the page.

A selection of work by Koji Nishioka. Left to right, Musical Score 9 (date not specified) , Musical Score, Anime Theme Song (2011) & Musical Score 1 (date not specified).

In his work, Ueno is particular about the gestures of fashion models, their clothing and the colours they wear.

A selection of work by Yasuyuki Ueno. Left to right, Make-up 3 (2011), Untitled 17 (2013) & Untitled 32 (2009).


Nama Āto: Japanese Outsider Art is delivered in partnership with Pallant House Gallery, Outside In and Atelier Corners.

Supported by Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin); celebrating the work of disabled artists, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council EnglandArts Council of Wales, British Council and Spirit of 2012.

Additional support from the Japan Foundation.

Unlimited’s next round of commissions is looking for international collaborations. Find out more here.



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