Floating Worlds: Japanese Woodcuts

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Until 12 January 2020

Free with Brighton Museum admission, members and residents free

Come with us on a journey to explore the ‘floating worlds’ of Japan through woodcut prints from the Edo period (1615 -1868).

This exhibition invites you to mindfully experience the sights of 19th century Japan.  Explore the city of Edo (now called Tokyo), visit the Kabuki theatre, watch fireworks and peek into private spaces. To get some air, take a stroll through the Japanese countryside, see the sea or climb high into the mountains. Guided by haiku poetry, immerse yourself in the celebrations and ceremonies of everyday life.

The style of prints on display is known as Ukiyo-e, which means ‘pictures of the floating world’. Ukiyo-e prints show pleasurable activities in beautiful surroundings and often have deeper meanings or a spiritual connection.

The exhibition focusses on the latter part of the Edo period, when Ukiyo-e prints were at their height in both style and popularity. These beautiful and rarely shown images are a selection from the museum’s print collection.

On display are works by the celebrated Japanese artist Hokusai, renowned for the international favourite The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Also represented are other Ukiyo-e masters such as Hiroshige, Kunisada (aka Toyokuni III) and Utamaro.

Ukiyo-e style prints became increasingly popular in Japan during the Edo period, when the country was cut off from the rest of the world through isolationist foreign policy. Woodcut prints were often serialised and mass-produced. The images were published in books or as posters, sometimes including discreet branding as a form of early advertising. Subjects ranged widely from beautiful courtesans and vivid landscapes to freshly caught fish or a roadside hat seller.

The exhibition will have minimal text and a light touch feel. Haiku poems set the tone for each group of images, with the aim of encouraging visitors to enjoy taking time to study the works without distractions. A gallery explainer will be on hand to enlighten the more curious visitors with details about the displayed works.

A recent survey by ArtFund found that 63% of the people questioned have used a museum or gallery to ‘destress.’ The exhibition and event programme have been deliberately tailored to offer visitors a calm space to relax and enjoy the art.

A series of mindful and wellbeing events will accompany the exhibition. Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation are amongst the sessions to be held in the exhibition space.

Exhibition coordinator Fiona Story said: “For this exhibition we have chosen to focus on beautiful scenes of everyday life that can allude to deeper meanings. We want to take our visitors on a mindful journey, to explore the connections between human activity and natural elements. We’ve also linked the artworks to haiku poetry to explore this idea further.

“It gives people the opportunity to explore these exquisite prints from their own perspective, to immerse themselves in the delicacy of the colours and lines and to mentally put themselves into the pictures. The prints are quite fragile and very light sensitive, so we are very excited that these wonderful pictures have been allowed out of the stores to make a rare and brief appearance.”

Contact information for press and media

For further information or interviews please contact Caroline Sutton on caroline.sutton@brighton-hove.gov.uk or + 44 (0)1273 296718.


A selection of press images is available at http://brightonmuseums.org.uk/brightonmuseum (login: press / dragons).

Mindful Events
Autumn 2019


Free with admission, members free, drop in.

Reduce stress and improve your sense of wellbeing with our programme of pop-up events and workshops promoting mindfulness. Check our website for workshop times and details.

Floating Worlds, Mindful Yoga
Thursday 12 December
11.30-11.50am & 12-12.20pm

Relax with a mindfully art-focussed yoga taster session. Beginner level, no equipment necessary.

Poetry reading

Thursday 24 October


Local Poet Subhadassi recites a selection of his work. A practising Buddhist, much of his work is imbued with a light hearted but subtle spirituality.

Tai Chi taster sessions

Saturday 16 November, Saturday 7 December & Saturday 11 January

2-3pm & 3.30-4.30pm
Experience the gentle power of Tai Chi, the ancient art of slow movements and mindful thought. Beginner level, no equipment necessary.

Meditation for wellbeing
Thursdays 14 & 21 November


Let go of your thoughts and boost your sense of wellbeing through our guided meditation sessions. Beginner level, no equipment necessary.

Other events will include Origami and Japanese Calligraphy sessions
Check website for further details