Aya Takano’s latest works continue the proliferating signifiers and exuberant landscapes of her previous series. Through the artist's reinterpretation, the pleasures of the countryside and the charms of the metropolis are revealed, much like the sprouting leaves that survived a long, harsh winter. Yet underneath the layering leaves, there exist ruminations on reincarnation, animism, traditions and spirituality, rooted in a universal concern, serpentine and intertwined.
Drawing from friends and families’ personal accounts, Takano once again depicted the same elementary school sisters in her previous exhibition at Perrotin Hong Kong. Coupling stereotypical characterization and purposefully staged everyday life with snippets of historical accounts and resistance against social constructs, the artist presents to us a series of Seken-banashi (a type of folklore studied by Kunio Yanagita) in the form of manga. These new works inherit Takano’s pictorial paradigm, where objects become vessels of information, and happenings lead the way to an overarching worldview. Layering and grafting, the artist seeks to enable and maximize communication through symbols and signs.
Spanning Chinatown, Shanghai and Guilin, Takano’s visual narrative is rich in detail but never cluttered. In fact, to restore order to disorder is a part of the artist’s repertoire. She stylizes manga’s lexicon so as to concoct a mirage of sweetness and dreaminess frequently attributed to teenage girls. These characteristics, though often deemed as the innate qualities of teenage girls, are in fact authored and devised by the artist.
When it comes to the presentation of teenage girls in Takano’s paintings, people can of course debate that it signals a transition from realistic eroticism to symbolic eroticism. But then again it is important to note that the teenager girls starring in Takano’s paintings are inclined to be connected with characters such as Toriko Futori from Shōhei Imamura’s Profound Desires of the Gods (1968) rather than a modernized inspiration. Gifted with supernatural powers and perceptions, they represent the "pre-human, collective unconscious or energy” rather than modern erotic fantasy.
Even though the female characters are given childlike, gentle, and harmless appearances, conforming with certain Otaku fantasies, they also manifest another possibility. Detached from reality, the teenage girls enjoy their “childhood” without social strictures. They are free from confinement, and reconnected with their primal power. They point to a latent future.
In Japanese culture, the historical tradition of dividing villages by farming areas has made it possible to distinguish between foreigners and compatriots, and to identify with the homeland and wonder about distant places. The protagonists of Takano’s latest works also traverse back and forth between oneself and the other. Drifters gather in front of Takano's canvases and tell the tales of the once-familiar foreign lands. Their narratives collectively construct a faraway place in a relative sense.
This distinction is also reflected in Takano’s understanding of urban and the natural environments. Metropolises are described as “conscious, things that are still lacking in wisdom, and plunderers,” whereas nature is related to “unconsciousness, wisdom, and love.” In the most familiar forms to the people at our time, the presence and power neglected by contemporary society appear on stage once more. They speak to a deep yearning in people’s hearts. There, the disorienting experiences of our modern condition are appeased by reminiscing the days of yore.
I would like to find some kind of cosmic truth as seen through the stories, one that every country, era, and culture produces; I’m still internally learning about which part is the essence of communication with all beings; I believe that ultimately everything is oneness.
In a sense, the prospect projected onto the other place suggests a longing to escape linear time and space, and ascend to a world pure and simple. Through introspective reflection and outward exploration, Takano is able to construct a Tono of her own by reassembling the earthly and the unearthly, the manmade and the natural, as well as the native and the alien. Here, “I” do not perish due to the presence of “the other.” Rather, “I” become one with the universe through numerous reconciliations.
Collecting and retelling folklores and myths in The Legends of Tono, Kunio Yanagita illustrates an otherworldly realm for those who reside in the human world. His opening remark also sheds light on Takano’s work in this exhibition.
Text by Lily Wang
I imagine there are hundreds of other legends in Tono similar to the ones written here... In the mountain villages of Japan, in areas yet deeper into the mountains than Tono, there must be countless other legends about people and spirits in the mountains. I wish these legends could also be heard, for they would make those of us who live in the lowlands shudder.
Born in 1976 in Saitama, Japan
Lives and works in Japan
Painter,illustrator,sci-fiwriterandmangaartist,AyaTakanobelongs to Kaikai Kiki, the artistic production studio created in 2001 by Takashi Murakami. Inspired by all art forms, from erotic stamps of the Edo Period to impressionism, from Osamu Tezuka to Gustav Klimt, the artist has built a universe all her own. A universe made of infinite worlds, all means of escaping reality, gravity and its restraints, to attain a certain form of transcendence.
Aya Takano’s inner journeys wind their way into delicate works that convey a disturbing impression, somewhere between eroticism and impertinence. In a bedroom or in the metro, in front of the skyscrapers of a megalopolis or on the moon, naïve and androgynous girls are sketched out in thin, sharp lines. The artist’s mythology has constructed itself little by little, through her creations and visions of the unknown. In March 2011, a violent tsunami struck the northeastern coasts of Japan and led to the nuclear accident of Fukushima. A real wake-up call for the artist, this catastrophe deeply influenced her work. Preferring oil paint, which is more natural, to acrylic paint, for example, Aya Takano seems to pursue a new artistic quest, both humble and spiritual, influenced by a unique interest in science and guided by an absolute respect for nature and human life.