Enjoying matcha tea inside the styrofoam tearoom Great New Wave is an exhibit of contemporary art that recently opened at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and I have to admit to being completely swept away by it.  It features six groundbreaking Japanese artists who explore the complex realities of the globalized world.In my opinion, contemporary art is too often underrated because it sometimes lacks the obvious visual appeal of traditional art.  Not that there is anything wrong with the uplifting and transformative power of beauty - I love it as well!  However, I'm drawn to contemporary art because it has the ability to speak to us about the life and times that we live in, in a profound and powerful way, and that's exactly what this exhibit did for me.  Although it's been several days since I saw Great New Wave, I have gone back to it in my mind on many occasions and found new meaning that has emerged with further reflection, and I have also already felt the pull to return and see it again. Kaihatsu with styrofoam deer As a tea lover, it's probably not going to come as a surprise that among my favourite pieces in this exhibit is a Japanese tearoom by artist Yoshiaki Kaihatsu.  This tearoom is constructed out of styrofoam and perches on plastic milk crates, which is a stark contrast to the traditional natural materials (such as wood and rice paper screens) that a tearoom would normally be made of. At the essence of the Japanese Tea Ceremony is a celebration of simplicity - you are meant to enjoy the simple pleasure of making a bowl of tea.  Thus a traditional tearoom is a very basic design and has simple adornments, so that your mind can focus on the making of the tea.  Kaihatsu's re-imagined tearoom is made of reclaimed styrofoam, which reminds us of the overly consumerist culture we live in. But its simplicity also elegantly reminds of us a traditional tearoom, and a new and intriguing harmony emanates from the unique shapes and effect that the styrofoam creates. Kaihatsu also made a styrofoam deer in response to the Gallery's Shinto Shrine, creating another exquisite moment which juxtaposes ancient with new.  The deer is outdoors in the Gallery's Garden, which further emphasizes the contrast between nature and objects such as styrofoam which are synthetic/artificial. I was also drawn to many other pieces, including Kohei Nawa's PixCell pieces which are a commentary on the global economy, and Sayaka's Akiyama's embroidered maps, which are also a must-see.  The exhibit runs until May 30, 2010.  For more information, go to aggv.bc.ca.