Trained in the popular art form known as kawaii (cute) as an illustrator for Nintendo video games, Aya Takano portrays endearing, wide-eyed androgynous figures with slender bodies; their extremities are systematically reddened, as if to illustrate their extreme sensitivity. For the Japanese, her work is technically irreproachable. Her mastery of drawing and color, combined with her capacity to work exceptionally quickly, is so great that Takashi Murakami has compared her to the brilliant Hoskusai, the 18th-century painter and printmaker.
What also contributes to the quality of Aya Takano’s work is the breadth and unique aspect of her pictorial world. Inspired by her vivid imagination, she expresses her everyday musings in the form of small preparatory drawings to which she adds her own texts, written with a purity and poetry that is evocative of traditional haiku. She is also an adept of the Japanese practice of customization, and her compositions teem with details. The tattoos on the figures, the patterns on each piece of fabric and the quality of the jewelry and accessories are all backdrops for introducing drawing into the drawing (like her acolyte, Mr.). All these images are then brought together to compose the complex subjects of her large acrylic canvases.
But the impression of gentleness transmitted by her light touch jars with the subversive nature of her work. For artists in the Kaikai Kiki group, the polish of the kawaii genre often provides a cover for the portrayal of controversial subjects. The paintings she exhibited at Lyon’s Musée d’Art Contemporain this autumn, for example, bluntly illustrated young geishas in the exhilarating throes of budding sexuality. And “garbage” is the theme for her series of works in progress for the exhibition at the Galerie Emmanual Perrotin Miami, a subject inspired by the artificial creation of Yume No Shima Island atop a heap of trash in Tokyo Bay.
Yet the artist takes on these regressive subjects with such a sense of whimsy that the perversity evaporates in the face of these incongruous compositions. Because Aya Takano lives in a world where giant squid fly among building and figures are stamped with two blue dots on their backsides, while others carry birds on their heads, like hats. The meaning of all these recurring symbols is elusive. And ultimately, this is the charm of her visual vocabulary, which is unique in the closed world of contemporary art: the heady exoticism of a foreign language. -- Raphael Gatel