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Aya Takano (B. 1976)
Aya Takano (B. 1976)

The Wind Came. The Vast Sky was a Light Blue. She Sees a World that Envelops the Entire Stratosphere.

Aya Takano (B. 1976)
The Wind Came. The Vast Sky was a Light Blue. She Sees a World that Envelops the Entire Stratosphere.
oil on canvas
each: 291.2 x 218.5 cm. (114 1/2 x 86 in.)
overall: 291.2 x 437 cm. (114 1/2 x 172 in.)
Painted in 2007
Kaikai Kiki Corporation, Aya Takano, Tokyo, Japan, 2009 (illustrated, pp. 104-105).
Miami, USA, Galerie Emmanuel PerrotinAWild Dogs, Hawks, Owls Cats, A Landfill The Size of 44 And A Half Tokyo Dreams, The Stratosphere, 2007.

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Lot Essay

Aya Takano is internationally recognised as one of the most important Japanese contemporary artists. Identified with the Japanese style dubbed 'Tokyo Pop' or 'Superflat', her works are part of a new pop aesthetic that borrows from Japan's otaku (computer geek) subculture, characterised by an obsession with manga (comic books), anime (cartoons) and the historic traditions of Japanese graphic arts, such as the flat lines of woodblock prints. Within this superflat aesthetic, Takano has pioneered her own pictorial language notable for its unique sense of kawaii (cuteness) and lolicon - shorthand for Lolita complex - imagery. Takano's lolicon girls, long-limbed, almond-eyed, prepubescent waifs, are inhabitants of an explicitly feminine world that is often sexualised. Created in 2007, this painting, The Wind Came. The Vast Sky was a Light Blue. She Sees a World that Envelops the Entire Stratosphere (Lot 60), is a tour de force of Takano's rich, complex visual language. It unites her sheer imaginative genius and her mastery and skill in painting, and is especially striking for its acute pointillist application.
Inspired by the modern shojo manga, ukiyo-e and shunga traditions of Edo period Japan, Takano's new pop aesthetic is revelatory of the perceived complexities of contemporary life. More than four metres long, this work is a fantastical visual wonderland that takes place somewhere in mid-air, where young girls stride through a graveyard of commercial waste, straight into the foreground, confronting the audience. White crosses flank them on either side, but these crosses are more reminiscent of windmills, power line towers, or some industrial or commercial structures, rather than symbols of religion. Birds, planes and their abstracted silhouettes hover above the billowing pile of landfill, waste and disintegration.
The title of the painting suggests a transformational moment of change and revelation. Bathed in an optimistic blue light, the scene is certainly jarring in its suggestion that this 'world enveloping the entire stratosphere' is in fact nothing more than a desolate wasteland. There is a sardonic tone behind the juxtaposition of the innocent and corrupt, pure and toxic. Takano perhaps comments on the effects of rapid industrialisation, and a type of artifice, subversion and corruption in society, through her whimsical pictorial worlds.
Takano embraces the large format and subject matter traditionally reserved for grand, historical paintings in the Western artistic tradition, best exemplified in Eugene Delacroix's famed painting Liberty Leading the People that commemorates the French Revolution in 1830. Similarly cropping the composition in height, and having a group of 'revolutionary' or 'heroic' figures stride towards the audience, Takano heightens the sense of action and movement with the forward intrusion of the picture into the viewer's space. Where Delacroix depicts an allegorical goddess-figure and a strong woman of the people personified as 'Liberty' in his picture, Takano's heroine is a frail, prepubescent girl. This presents a captivating disjunctive contrast in the image.
Exhibited in the Wild Dogs, Hawks, Owls Cats, A Landfill The Size of 44 And A Half Tokyo Dreams, The Stratosphere exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, Miami, in 2007 (Fig. 1), this painting is a highlight of Takano's oeuvre. Its refined, meticulous brushwork, in particular the tight, swirling short brushstrokes of the blue skies and white clouds in the background, conjure the techniques of pointillist artists such as Georges Seurat, or Post-Impressionist artists like Vincent van Gogh. The soft, subdued colour palette and idyllic atmosphere recall the touch of Seurat in La Grand Jatte, while the swirling blue sky reminds the viewer of Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows (Fig. 2). Takano employs short strokes of gradating tones in blue and white to depict the sky, which seems to pulsate, vibrate and move with the windmentioned in the title to stir up the apparition and arrival of the girls.
The painting nonetheless culminates from various art forms that are distinctly Japanese. The multi-panel arrangement that envelops the viewer's space evokes the format and effect of byobu (traditional Japanese screens). Takano also employs a subtle cinematic pacing, revealing the influence from manga and anime. The partially clothed or fully nude female protagonists, and the spirit of carpe diem in her works, juxtapose the contemporary girls with elements taken from ukiyo-e (floating world images) and shunga (erotic art) in the modern Edo period (1603-1868), populated by geishas, kabuki actors, samurais and prostitutes. This superb work best exemplifies Takano's ability to transform and reinvent the multilayered artistic vocabulary of Japan across various genres and art forms. In these extraordinary visions, which can be likened to flashbacks of half-forgotten dreams, the viewer is transported into various spaces of opposites: ordinary and extraordinary, child and adult, fantasy and reality, purity and corruption.

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