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AYA TAKANO
(B. 1976)
Dun Huang's Room
acrylic on canvas
194 x 259 cm. (73 3/8 x 102 in.)
Painted in 2006
Provenance
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in October 2006
Literature
Panama Musees (ed.), Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, Chiho Aoshima, Mr., Aya Takano, 2006 (exhibition view illustrated, pp. 160 & 166; illustrated, pp. 168-169; illustrated in black & white, p. 204).
Perrotin, BING, Paris, France, December 2007-March 2008 issue (illustrated, p. 84).
Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., Aya Takano, Tokyo, Japan & New York, USA Perrotin, Paris, France, , 2009 (illustrated, pp. 94-95 & 100).
Exhibited
Lyon, France, Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, Chiho Aoshima, Mr., Aya Takano, 24 September-31 December 2006.

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Lot Essay

"I wanted release from the gravity that weighed me down. I wanted to escape. And I wanted to grasp that freedomK"-Aya Takano

A longing for certain escapism from the mundane reality of contemporary society is the backbone behind the visual wonderlands of Aya Takano's creations. In these extraordinary visions, liken to flashbacks of half-forgotten dreams, one witnesses a simulated experience of being transported into various spaces of opposites: ordinary and extraordinary, child and adult, fantasy and reality, human and non-human, purity and corruption.

Drawing from the concepts of escapism and fantasy in shojo manga (girls comics) of the uncertain post World War II era in the 1970s, Takano's images elicit rich emotions and establishes a kind of psychological sanctuary for her audience to surpass the "gravity" of the social constraints by employing vaguely familiar but distant settings. Stellar journeys into the frontiers of space, nighttime travels with insects, animals and strange creatures, adventures in the glistening city lights, are all transpired onto her delicately painted and vividly coloured canvases.

In Dun Huang's Room (Lot 1036), the artist brings us towards a distant time of ancient civilization on the Silk Road. Her characteristic muted lines and delicate washes successfully evoke the Mogao cave murals and the glory of a bygone Golden era. We catch a glimpse of Gustave Klimt's influence in its intricate, glistening golden robes of abstract shapes and forms that are suited to Oriental fashion. Where the title and historical reference are clearly Chinese, Takano's image is a pastiche of an imagined, magical historical journey complete with Aztec warriors, a strange feline and a straw man.

Takano comments on a type of artifice, subversions in society, and the spirit of carpe diem by juxtaposing the kawaii (cute) girls of contemporary Japanese society with elements taken from the "floating" world (ukiyo-e) modern Edo period (1603-1868), populated by the of geishas, kabuki actors, samurai and prostitutes. The influences from Japanese ukiyo-e prints are evident here in the spatial arrangement, with the collapse and division of spaces with screens, while the theme of robe-clad court noblewomen in this trove-like room harkens to the classic Tale of Genji (Monogatari-Emaki) of the early Heian period (784-1185). Like in most of the artist's creations, we are unsure which realm of reality and fantasy the figures really lie in - whether they are contemporary women dressed in ancient costumes for role-play, or memories from a time-traveler's dream.

Aya Takano's rich, complex visual language is a successful union of her a sheer imaginative genius matched with her mastery and skill in painting. She employs thin watercolour-like so that the underlying images show through like shadows of the past that haunt the present. The redness on the extremities of the figures seems to suggest to their sensitivity. Despite their apparent fragility, the characters move tirelessly in and out of these dream-like worlds, showing expressions that render bewilderment, amusement, or in this case, a slight craze overcome by the mystical, magical mystery of their past and present, through their vacant, unblinking eyes and pursed lips.

It is this jarring contrast between the impression of gentleness and the underlying subversive nature in her work that is most captivating to many of her. Internationally recognized as one of the most important contemporary artist in Japan, Takano anchors the quality of her work by the sheer breadth and depth of her pictorial world and the capacity of her imaginations that is unmistakably revelatory of the perceived complexities of our everyday real world. Ultimately, Takano's oeuvre does not offer resolve to her individual visions, but like haikus, they are like small musings of a long-running visual story that releases the artist's private world of fantasy and travel in space and time.

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