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Friday, January 27, 2017

‘Breaking the Waves’ by Daisuke Takeya

Daisuke Takeya reciting a poem (photo by Artur Augustynowicz)
Earlier this month, I participated in the closing reception of Daisuke Takeya's exhibition of paintings and installation at the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto. 

Daisuke is a Canadian-Japanese artist who works both in Toronto and Tokyo. He calls himself an “interdisciplinary artist whose practice is comprised of the exploration of nature and plausibility in contemporary society, and hinges on all kinds of double meanings.” He has lived and worked globally, having studied art in New York.

His exhibition at the Cutts Gallery titled ‘Breaking the Waves’ was his fourth solo show. The title is from Lars von Trier’s 1996 film of the same name, which depicted a traumatic story of love, life and death. Daisuke explained that the film had resonated with him and influenced his artistic explorations especially after the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear reactor meltdown disaster of 2011 that hit Japan’s east coast. 

Earlier, talking to me during an interview on TAG TV (which is yet to be aired), Daisuke said that as an artist he evolved dramatically from realistic and figurative paintings to exploring emptiness after his five-year involvement for the rehabilitation of the survivors of that disaster.

Venice (Home to Yayoi Kusama’s
1959 No. 2) Cutts Gallery
In interpreting emptiness, Daisuke uses large canvas space to depict the sky, and at the bottom of the canvas is a thin, minuscule skyline of different cities. 

The Kara (emptiness) series of paintings force viewers to see urban space as a small, insignificant, and quintessentially artificial creation of humankind, dwarfed by the vastness of nature’s immense creation – the magnificent sky. 

The urban skyline depicted are of Toronto, Niagara Falls, rural Fukushima, the South China Sea, Jomon, the oldest known civilization of Japan; Gaylang, Singapore’s redlight district and Okawa Elementary School.

Memoirs of Fukushima
Cutts Gallery
The Kara series were exhibited in one room of the Cutts Gallery. In the other room there were two life-sized paintings: a portrait of a Lolita girl from Fukushima, and of a Canadian indie music star Clara Venice as a mermaid.

Both exuded a distinct surreal aura, not necessarily in the way they are painted (realism) but in the way Daisuke situates and contextualises them. 

The overwhelming effect they created in the exhibition space, juxtaposed as they were with the centrepiece of the exhibition, was dramatic and unsettling, and ultimately surreal.

These two paintings along with the centrepiece installation formed a part of a triptych monument dedicated to the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan.  The installation was a smorgasbord of abstraction, realism, mixing of different media, a combination of disaster debris, neon signs, Kara paintings and figurative, realistic (as opposed to sensual) nudes

It boldly proclaimed the underlying theme of the exhibition: that manipulation of nature in the name of development and progress only results in decay, disintegration; and that all of it is almost always deliberately. 

The highlight of the closing reception was a performance by Istvan Kantor, who performed the ‘Ravaged Pieta’ in the installation space, blending in with Daisuke’s art and simultaneously transforming it. 

Istvan Kantor and Louise Liliefeldt performing the Ravaged Pieta

Kantor is a renowned exponent of Neoism and a Governor General Award winner for performing art. He interpreted tsunami to mean gentrification that has led to the extinction of urban communities in recent decades. His cry was also against what he describes as 'shinyism' of art that is controlled by corporate tastes. 

The highlight of the performance was at the climax when Kantor pushed a needle into his vein and began to bleed rather profusely much to the gaping astonishment of the audience. It was by all accounts a spellbinding act.

From the social media, I learnt that Ravaged Pieta was a mash-up performance led by Kantor, and accompanied by Lynda Cheng - Vocal/Performance, Louise Liliefeldt -Performance/Tableau Vivant, Vivienne Wilder - Music Performance. 

Louise Liliefeldt is a longtime collaborator of Kantor, and is globally known for her pioneering durational tableau vivant action/performances and installation works. Vivienne Wilder is a skilled musician/artist, lead vocalist and bass player in several bands. She has become integral to Kantor's performances in recent years. Lynda Cheng is a social worker with unceasing passion for helping homeless people. She also contributes her talents to the arts and regularly shares the stage with Kantor. 

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