Tucked away in Connaught Village, a leafy area in the heart of London’s West End, you will find Dorothy Circus Gallery. It’s a short walk away from Marble Arch, just north of Hyde Park. You can spot the teal doors from the distance during daytime and as we approached the gallery, we were welcomed by the paintings of Miho Hirano and Mitsuko Kuroki for their double solo show The Beauties of Nature and The Sixth Sense, respectively.
My initial visit was on Friday 25th of November with my daughter who for her GCSE had to select a handful of artists to write about and one of them was Miho Hirano, whose work she really liked. I have been following her on Instagram for several years now, as well as Mitsuko Kuroki, and as they generally show their works in their native Japan and the USA, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of seeing them here, in London, in their full glory. What we already know is that viewing things on the smartphone or even on a laptop is great for quick visibility, but lacks the details, all those things that the eye can capture in the different light, the angles, you can see and feel that beautiful texture, see those brushstrokes, or lack of, and know exactly the colours used without filter or photo manipulation. Or the loss of pixels because the website or Instagram have compressed an image to death or made the light slightly more red/green/blue/yellow… I know from experience that my paintings look better in person and I enjoy seeing them in different lights during different times of the day.
I then visited the gallery a second time on the 29th of November because I felt I needed to see everything one more time and wanted to take a few detailed shots. Of course, I forgot to take all the shots I wanted to because I was distracted by how beautiful the paintings were and allowed my mind to wander…. Again…
But before I talk more about the artists, let me give you a quick idea of the sort of gallery Dorothy Circus is, at least the London branch because yes, there is a Rome branch, where the first Dorothy Circus opened its doors in 2007 founded by Maddalena di Giacomo and her daughter Alexandra Mazzanti, who is now the sole owner and director. Ten years later, in 2017, the second branch opened in London and they moved to their current location on Connaught Street in 2018.
On their website they write:
Dorothy Circus Gallery is a space dedicated to the figurative avant-gardes in contemporary art.
The gallery brings together international established and up and coming artists from the worlds of Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Street Art, selected for their compelling visual languages and intriguing correlation to Pop iconography, New Surrealism and Magic Realism.
On their roster they have artists such as Luke Chueh, Jana Brike, Miss Van, Yosuke Ueno (have I shown you the cute collectibles which were available on PopMart?), Tokuhiro Kawai, Atsuko Goto, Matthew Grabelsky, Camilla D’Errico, the late Hyuro, to name a few, and of course, Kuroki and Hirano, who I will be writing about today.
During both visits we were met with a very friendly and knowledgeable staff. Veronica and Beatrice showed us around, talked about the artists, the shows, and were very helpful in answering our questions and just chatting about art in general. I had an absolutely wonderful time and was made to feel welcome. Having visited several other galleries in the Mayfair area, where we were ignored by staff and made to feel as if we were intruding simply for wanting to look at the art, the Dorothy Circus experience was the polar opposite, so don’t feel you can’t go in because you have to ring on the doorbell to be let in. They are extremely welcoming and lovely.
Now about the main reason I went to Dorothy Circus in the first place!
Japanese artist Miho Hirano studied art in Kodaira, Japan. Her dreamlike paintings of women are enveloped by dreamlike natural elements such as flowers, leaves, seaweed, fish, birds, water, taking the viewer in a magical journey. In a lot of her paintings, the subject is either looking directly at the viewer, or giving them a not so coy side glance. As if inviting you to come into their world of dreams.
The below painting was borrowed from Colossal as it is highly detailed and you can actually see how smooth the canvas is and the flecks of colour on the skin and throughout the painting. It’s almost capturing the imperfections in everything, because nothing is exactly one solid colour, there’s so much going on in Hirano’s paintings that it really pulls you in. Details that we completely miss on a small screen. When I first sae her work on Instagram, I thought they were done in coloured pencil, especially the paintings that were lighter in colour, and there was something about the direction of the lines. But then seeing them in person, I realised the richness of the colours, the layering, and so much more that had been lost on screen. On the Dorothy Circus website, you can zoom in and see better those details, but I highly recommend seeing them in person. You will fall even more in love with her artwork.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kuroki attended Tama Art University. Her subjects appear to be floating in space surrounded by abstract forms that resemble feathers, clouds, but also nebulae and flickering stars. To achieve the desired effects, she uses pigments, silver and gold powder, Japanese ink, modelling paste on cloth. I am curious as to what black ink she used because there was such depth to it, it felt like looking into the void. This was also achieved by having very pale figures contrasting that black and then the surrounding bright colour. The added sprinkling of magic are the gold and silver powders which add an extra sparkle to the paintings.
In the case of Kuroki’s paintings, when I first saw them on Instagram, I thought that perhaps they had been digitally created because the images on there were smooth with not many details. I had no idea what to expect from seeing them in real life and as soon as I saw them hanging on the wall in their frames that also had splashes of ink and gold/silver powder that really made the paintings even bigger with the feeling of an expanded universe, I was in awe. I spent ages looking at them and just seeing how the digital screen had lied to me, that there was so much more to Kuroki’s paintings it was absolutely incredible. I had to take multiple pictures just so I could show off the textures on here. I was glad I didn’t look at the paintings beforehand on Dorothy Circus because the effect would have been ruined. Mostly because the full website has zoom in functions and you can see the details on there too.
One of the fun facts I learned by chatting with the Dorothy Circus staff is that Miho Hirano and Mitsuko Kuroki are best friends and tend to show their artwork together. Both represent the Japanese New Surrealism and portray feminine figures in a dreamlike world, distant and unattainable.
The show at Dorothy Circus Gallery runs from the 17th of November until the 17th of December of 2022 and I highly recommend you pay it a visit. For more details, visit their website.
They are located on 35 Connaught Street, London, W2 2AZ