Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Japanese artist Aya Takano, marking the artist’s second presentation at the Hong Kong space, since her debut in 2012. In these series of ten paintings and twenty-four drawings, Aya Takano has created an ode to Hong Kong like no other, capturing its landscapes, its culture and its quirks, in a happy and colourful tribute that puts on display the artist’s intimate affection for the city.
The defiantly ethereal characters that have come to represent her Superflat approach to painting and illustration come to life on her canvas and under her pencils, with their huge eyes and endless limbs. Here, though, they are not intent on a space mission or busy floating in a dreamy Tokyo/outerspace scenery (Takano is a renowned Science Fiction writer, like English readers can see in her Spaceship EE).
Drawing inspirations from her own observation and experiences of her friends in Hong Kong, Takano tells stories of three teenagers' daily lives together in the city. They move about engaged in games and occupations of their own, little concerned with what anyone is thinking. They stare out of their world in a direct way, and hold the viewer’s gaze fully and unapologetically. The characters are in total control of their space, just like creatures from a parallel universe who have no compulsion to explain themselves. And yet, each of them reminds us of someone we may have seen in the street: young people busy preparing a Lunar New Year lion dance in one of the rural districts, or again dressed in their fashion forward best as they consume an iced drink, or someone sitting alongside the offerings for the Hungry Ghost Festival, as they slowly burn inside their metal bins.
I wanted release from the gravity that weighed me down. I wanted to escape. And I wanted to grasp that freedom.
Takano’s characters, even in this fresh incarnation as Hong Kong people, are creatures from a dreamy universe: their hair and clothes – never too much of those – flap in the breeze, and they seem to hang in a liminal space that is neither entirely terrestrial nor completely imaginary. Their flatness and tell-tale backgrounds puts them in a straight line of descent from ukiyo-e’s prints that continue to influence artists in Japan and abroad: woodblock images produced from the seventeenth and nineteenth century depicting scenes from the floating world.
The fact that Takano succeeded in opening up to the outside world without succumbing to introversion can perhaps be traced to a certain intimacy with the everyday that one finds in her work.
All Takano’s favorite obsessions are here, getting more accomplished and expressive with time: the fantastical perspective that subverts the landscape isn’t intended to give a realistic scale, but puts the dreamy, big-eyed creatures in the middle of an impermanent world. It is a universe populated mostly by girls, very comfortable with themselves and their own bodies.
Every moment is connected to a place that goes beyond the common good and evil, and to a transcendental moment that goes beyond the everyday world.
Takano's endearing attention to Hong Kong’s vernacular and its numerous cultural hybridities requires attention, as detail after detail she keeps surprising the viewer with yet another specific observation.
-- The digital leaflet includes extracts of text by Ilaris Maria Sala
Born in 1976 in Saitama, Japan
Lives and works in Japan
Takano grew up immersed in the intense visual culture of post-war Japan made of manga, anime, science fiction, to which she added a persisting curiosity and interest for natural sciences and the juxtaposition between nature landscapes and urban landscapes – a duality that comes to perfect fruition in her observations of a place like Hong Kong. She then went on to receive a formal training as an artist at Tokyo’s Tama Art University, from where she graduated in 2000, and soon thereafter started to work together with Murakami Takashi, and became part of Kaikai Kiki Co.
The years in which Takano developed her artistic sensitivities were the ones in which Japan had already established itself as an economic powerhouse, after the destruction of World War II, and in which consumer culture had started to add both a dreamlike and playful quality to daily life, but also a disquieting insistence on sexualizing young women and girls and turning them into the target of consumption. Takano subverts this commercial operation by turning her characters into irreverent participant in this dynamic: they float, they enjoy themselves, they love, eat, drink and play, and are very much their own masters, taking from a commercialized world only what suits them, and disregarding the attempt at turning them into objects.