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AYA TAKANO
(Japanese, B. 1976)
You Want to Get Out of Here, Don't You?
dated '2008'; signed 'TAKANO AYA' in English (on reverse of the second panel)
acrylic on canvas, quadriptych
overall: 300 x 1180 cm. (118 1/8 x 464 1/2 in.)
each: 300 x 295 cm. (118 1/8 x 116 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2007
Literature
Kaikai Kiki and Perrotin, Aya Takano, Tokyo, Japan Paris, France, 2009 (exhibition view illustrated, pp. 112-113).
Exhibited
Paris, France, Perrotin Gallery, Towards Eternity, 2008.

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Lot Essay

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

The centerpiece of the exhibition "Towards Eternity" held at the Perrotin Gallery, Paris in 2008, Aya Takano's You Want to Get Out of Here, Don't You? (Lot 1057) is a monumental four-panel feat that demonstrates the extraordinary imaginary capacities, artistic language and vision that has placed the artist at the forefront of Japanese contemporary art of her generation. Spanning 10 metres, the painting is a fantastical visual wonderland that takes place on a highway between the suburban life and the countryside. As the title of the painting itself suggests, a longing for certain escapism from the mundane reality of contemporary society is the backbone in Aya Takano's creations, masterfully manifest here in her great opus.

Takano elicits rich emotions and once forgotten memories with her images of pre-pubescent girls. They occupy the composition, arriving into the scene mid-air via an umbrella, not unlike like the fictional character Mary Poppins, having disembarked from a train traveling between the clouds. The warm sun that basks the canvas in a strong light reads as a cheerfully innocent optimism, juxtaposed with the neon tube illuminating the cold sterility of the convenience store beside an empty, broken highway. This jarring mismatch of atmospheric realms is employed throughout Takano's works, and here accentuates the liminal realms between countryside and city, fantasy and reality, nature and culture, child and adult, leisure and labour.

Originally commissioned to illustrate the cover of a book for young adults, the painting describes Takano's personal interpretation of the novel, a thriller about young high school girls who turn to a life of crime, prostitution, and murder. As Takano explains in an interview, "It's quite a shocking book... They're not ordinary girls. However, at the end, they decide to get out of their situation ". (Aya Takano, "Towards Infinity ", Interview by Helene Sevaux, 2008). The whole image, as if triggered by the ring of a cell phone - sitting on the rolling, green hill - renders Takano' s girl-women either dressed in school uniform, or appearing to mutate into a half-butterfly, half-human form, attempting to flee the constraints of their reality and to escape to a new universe. In fact, under the facade of this seemingly bucolic landscape is a seductive and subversive world.

Installed before a makeshift highway bumper rail, lamp post and mirrors like the highway in the 2008 exhibition, the painting is one of Takano's largest, multi-paneled format compositions and its scale forces the audience to play an active role in experiencing the fantastic imagery. Among the wide range of influences that have permeated Takano's imagination, here the suburban lifestyle in a rapidly changing social background alludes to her study of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, particularly in her employment of trains to depict the quickening sprawl of urbanization into the suburbs - artistic motifs of leisurely landscapes that recall those of the plein air painters like Claude Monet. The anxiety over modernity encroaching on the countryside, as well the desire to create an epic, grandiose narrative is also reminiscent of Georges Seurat' s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, painted over 1884-1886, depicting petite bourgeoisie on the banks of the river. The monumental format and compositional elements of the painting recall the central notion of the Impressionists challenging the canons of Western historical paintings by delivering canvas with seemingly weighty importance in scale while depicting unheroic scenes of everyday life.

At the same time, Takano exhibits a strong desire to reinvent and reclaim the highly gendered otaku culture (geek culture) through a feminine perspective. Drawing from the concepts of escapism and fantasy in shojo manga (girls comics) of the uncertain post World War II era if the 1970s, Takano's images establishes a kind of psychological sanctuary for her audience to surpass the "gravity" of the social constraints by employing vaguely familiar but distant settings, all of which are transmuted into her delicately painted and vividly coloured canvases. Yet, the multi-panel arrangement in You Want to Get Out of Here, Don't You? , almost a daring reinvention of the traditional screens (byobu) is one that is a culmination of various art forms that are distinctly Japanese. Not only is the narrative sequence from left to right fundamental in traditional formats in nihonga (Japanese painting) such as the hand scroll, the cinematic pacing here reveals the direct influence from manga and anime techniques that made the pioneering comic artist Osamu Tezuka and his first published hardcover book Shin-Takarajima (New Treasures Island) icons in contemporary popular culture. Takano's capability to transform and reinvent the multi-layered artistic vocabulary of Japan across various genres and art forms is one that is best exemplified here in this extraordinary work.

Like small musings of a long-running visual story that releases the artist's private world of fantasy and travel in space and time, Aya Takano's rich, complex visual language is a successful union of her sheer imaginative genius and her mastery and skill in painting. It is this jarring contrast between the initial genteel impression and the underlying subversive nature of her work that is most captivating. Takano anchors the quality of her work by the sheer breadth and depth of her pictorial world and the capacity of an imagination that is unmistakably revelatory of the perceived complexities of our everyday real world.

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