Japanese artist Chizuru Kondo was born in Ishikawa, Japan in 1976. Ms Kondo makes prints in the ancient style of woodblock printing, most famous in the west by Katsushika Hokusai’s elegant works, but injects a vibrancy into them with content more inspired by the cartoons and underground culture than by Hokusai’s natural scenes. “I want to make you smile,” she simply told the UK’s The Journal in 2008. I found that the pieces did make me smile, their references to Japanese art and culture is easy to spot, but with their similarity to advertising posters, shameless sloganeering and pupil-less characters I can see a more skeptical side to Ms. Kondo than simply wanting to impart happiness; the bottom corners of some of the pieces look like they are about to be turned like the page of a book, on the verge of being disregarded; cigarettes and smoke appear often; the piece Dress-Up Cat (below) only has two options in which to be adorned and one of them is Mickey Mouse. Chizuru Kondo appears to be commenting upon the idea of the “refreshing take”, acknowledging that she is keeping up the oldest form of printing still in use today fully aware that, as far as images are concerned, there is nothing new under the sun. As you look at the work below don’t be afraid to smile at the exceptional craftsmanship, but don’t be afraid to ask yourself about what Ms Kondo might be reflecting about globalized 21st-century culture in her work. (By the way, those Kim-Jong Il-looking guys in the last image are saying “Qu’il fait bon”, both a dessert shop in Ms. Kondo’s native Japan that translates roughly to “It is good”…see where that takes you).