Aya Takano's artistic career has grown exponentially since her discovery by
Takashi Murakami. Having participated in over 50 solo and group exhibitions since 1997, she is hailed as an icon of Japanese contemporary art in her distinctive, wild yet serene paintings and sculptures. Portraying peculiar visions and desires hidden deep inside each and every one of her works, her canvases such as Space 2 (Lot 1034) offered this season shows her incessant curiosity in every detail of her world. This inquisitiveness appears in her paintings masked by the artificial trappings of science fiction and intentional obscure rendering of familiar objects and situations with such effect they might as well be imaginary. Her diverse source of inspirations include artists Edouard Manet, Yayoi Kusama and Gustav Klimt alongside science fiction novels, her dreams and desires which transpired onto the canvas as dreamy, complex compositions of exhilarating rapture (1). In the careful layering of individually painted objects of warm golden colours we see the possible compositional influences of Klimt (Fig. 1); in the heavily repeated circular formations and spectacularly imaginative overall image, perhaps Kusama's Infinity Nets series lurks in the subconscious our artist as well.
Aya Takano's innate attraction towards fantastical animated literature is shared by millions of Japanese and international audiences, who find calm and hope in fables of utopia and adventures which take place in distant galaxies and eras. In the Post- World War II decades of Japan, manga and anime served as an instrument of spiritual recuperation and invigoration and implanted a seed of inspiration to artists like Aya Takano who transforms the literal world of aspiration, dreams and euphoria into magical paintings and sculpture. Author Osamu Tezuka is one such figure who influences Aya Takano.
" I grew up reading Osamu Tezuka's manga The Phoenix. Such stories are part of my background. My father had a collection of manga that I would regularly read, and until the age of nineteen I thought everything I read was true!' She laughs: 'Until then the world was a thing of wonder and excitement for me. So now when I read SF (science fiction) it's in order to remember the excitement I used to feel. Even now, I sometimes think that we can fly if we just try hard enough. " (2)
A figure analogous to perhaps Walt Disney, his animations such as Metropolis (heavily influenced after Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1927); Astro Boy and Phoenix (Hi no Tori). Osamu Tezuka introduced futuristic, dynamic, and alluring worlds in its unknown. Similar adjectives can be used to characterize Aya Takano's Space 2 of 2006 which in its large almost life size scale moves the audience into her world of infinite possibilities. The universe is perhaps the most pragmatic backdrop for her artistic work as space is ever mysterious and a frequent setting of sci-fi; it is a continuous expanding and contracting life force that forms luminous stars and planets. Using the swift strokes of her paint brush, Aya Takano elevates us into outer space where this story unfolds.
In the centre of the painting, a large white opening draws the viewer into this cosmos. Perhaps it is the tail of a spaceship flying away from us at warped speed forcing its surrounding matter to drift and cluster away from the center. Here we greet a plethora of animals, some which we can associate with star constellations and zodiac signs swan, snake, fish and horse- weaving and mingling with armadillos and red antlered reindeers. The overwhelming sensation of fantasy is deepened by the UFO-like circular formations surrounding the main figures, enticing us with notions of an alternate life force. Our long limbed astronaut frees herself of her space gear with composure and satisfaction as though she has finally fulfilled her dream to fly in zero gravity and join the elusive figure behind her. Though stripped of her suit her near naked form is not sexual but rather endearing in her innocence. Wide eyed and staring directly towards the viewer, we cannot help but marvel over whom the girl represents; is she a vision Takano had of the past or would we, the viewer wish to be the central figure? The fearless attitude of the protagonist negates the fearsome force the universe holds, 'aliens' as it were here seem approachable and amicable. Even the fiery burst of energy to the left does not repel us but is tempting in its warmth and vibrancy, a refreshing vision serving as a reminder of a life beyond our daily, routine existence.
Aya Takano applies the acrylic paint with free brushstrokes of watercolours, even allowing it to drip down the canvas, adding a translucency and sense of foreshortening of this expansive space. Free of traditional compositional elements, the multiple objects within the canvas are also differently scaled, further collapsing an extended period of time into a singular frame. This unique fluidity in time and space is facilitated by the soft grey curving outlines in the painting, reminiscent of Japanese comic and traditional painting where lines are used to delineate subjects from their surroundings. In her distinctive colour palette of pastel hues and warm blues, Space 2 embodies a sweetness deeply associated with the girl-centric culture of contemporary Japan. Takano highlights these women's inability and reluctance to age through glowing red hues on the joints of the figures and blushing cheeks of Takano's figures thus suggesting their malleability and an ability to keep growing in height and maturity as though a budding youth. (3) In her paintings, we are kept under the optimistic illusion that humans never age and can forever preserve in their youthful, adventurous spirit.
Space 2 beautifully illustrates Aya Takano's ability to transform a simple canvas into a wondrous, imaginative world filled with references to popular culture in Japan in the contemporary era. The portrayed indistinctive girl-women that recur throughout her works wholly illustrate the kawaii girls prevalent in current Japanese society, exemplifying how deeply rooted Japan's culture is in animated literature, fantasy and the collective desire for momentary escape. Painted in Takano's signature gentle style, Space 2 is charmingly unpolished, approachable and endearing. It is an exceptional example of Aya Takano's remarkable ability to portray a world of endless discovery.
(1)Higgens, Jennifer "Another Girl, Another Planet", Aya Takano, Kaikai Kiki Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 2009, unpaged.
(2) "Aya Takano" as quoted in Drop Dead Cute- The New Generation of Women Artists in Japan, Chronicle Books LLC, USA, 2005, p. 88.
(3)Savaux, Helene, Aya Takano "Towards Eternity" http://www.galerieperrotin.com/artiste-Aya_Takano-15.html. Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 2008. 5 October 2010.