NANZUKA is pleased to present Keiichi Tanaami’s exhibition “Mirror of the World,” held concurrently at NANZUKA UNDERGROUND and 3110NZ by LDH kitchen. This is a solo exhibition of new works following the artist’s 2020 show “Memorial Reconstruction,” held as the final exhibition of the gallery’s previous space in Shibuya before its relocation, and “Manhattan Universe” presented in September this year at Venus Over Manhattan in New York.
In “Memorial Reconstruction,” which took place in July 2020, between the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tanaami retrospectively engaged with the themes of memories, knowledge and experiences from his own life, and the amplification of images (dreams) derived from them. The exhibition comprised of what could be regarded as a series of mandalas, which while vividly depicting the afterimage of Japan’s “post-war” era and the vicissitudes of the times which unfolded in parallel to Tanaami’s life, each manifested as a reflection of his personal history.
Tanaami’s artistic practice underwent a drastic change as the world found itself in the midst of the pandemic. As overseas exhibitions, university lectures, and other various projects were suspended, he suddenly experienced an unintentional break from his on-going routine of the past 60 years, throughout which he had been pressed by deadlines and constantly overwhelmed with a busy schedule. This essentially led to the birth of unexpected byproducts in Tanaami’s oeuvre.
“…As I spent my days idly as so, I was overcome by the feeling that I had to do something. Although I thought it may be an idea to take a break for a while given the circumstances, it’s true that old habits die hard, for it was then that my eyes caught sight of a dusty canvas laid out on the floor of my studio. It was a reproduction I had made of Picasso’s 1943 painting, Mother and Child (Mère et enfant). Having replaced the child in the mother’s arms with an image of Astro Boy (or Mighty Atom, as he is referred to in Japanese), I presented the painting at Osamu Tezuka’s “ATOM” exhibition.”
“…I started painting a copy of Picasso’s Mother and Child. By the time I noticed the sun had already set, and in my dimly lit studio, I continued to intently engage with the image of the mother and child. I never thought that the simple act of just copying what I liked without giving it much thought was something that could be so amusing, and it also helped to stabilize my mind and body. I feel that the simple process of copying colors and shapes with no need to engage in any form of trial or error is similar to practice of sutra copying that I once had the opportunity to experience. I was surprised that painting solely as a means to find one’s peace of mind, with no fixed intentions, deadlines, or plans for exhibition, would lead to such mindful satisfaction.”
Tanaami purchased a large number of F6 canvases at an art supply store, and began painting on them as part of his daily routine. He repeatedly produced well over 400 reproductions of Picasso’s works over the past three years, which eventually led to the conception of his original Picasso series. Every day, he starts by lining up four to five canvases in his studio. With the first canvas Tanaami attempts to imitate Picasso’s while directly looking at a book of his works, which is subsequently followed by the second canvas that is painted in reference to the first. From the third canvas onwards, he makes changes and adjustments to the image as he pleases while tracing his most recent visual memories of the work. What is conceived as a result are a series of works that slightly differ from one another, like a painting version of a game of Chinese whispers.
This kind of creative activity, which Tanaami describes as being “akin to the practice of sutra copying,” is by no means puerile mimicry or an act of plagiarism. Not to mention Van Gogh’s reproductions of Hokusai and Hiroshige’s work, in the history of “art” whose origins lie in the imitation of nature, there are many examples of artists imitating the work of other artists. Just as scientists deepen their research and experiments by referencing other people’s papers, or athletes studying the movements of their rivals, humans learn most of their intellectual information through imitation or hearsay. This is the same in art, wherein through replication and reproduction, artists acquire not only superficial knowledge, but also detailed information such as unique perspectives, distinct techniques, as well as the concepts and ideas that are embodied within the work. Tanaami mentions that through the repeated process of reproducing Picasso’s work, he came to understand from which part Picasso had started painting particular works, how he created the colors, and what points he was trying to emphasize within the image.
In this exhibition, approximately 300 works from Tanaami’s Picasso’s series will be exhibited in the first-floor space of NANZUKA UNDERGROUND, centering on an installation that takes on the form of a mobile sales stand (kiosk). The second-floor space of NANZUKA UNDERGROUND and 3110NZ features new canvas paintings and collages that the artist continues to produce from his vast reservoir of images, as well as his latest animation work “Red Shade.”
In Tanaami’s artistic practice, which continues to evolve even in the maturity of his career, it is possible to observe the essence of human creative activity. At the same time, it also seems to be an eloquent response to the straightforward question: “what is art?” Tanaami’s overwhelmingly extensive oeuvre, created through the trinity of indomitable creative spirit, vast knowledge and experience, and skilful technique, truly knows no end.
“This delightful period is still ongoing, and today I again find myself obsessing over Picasso, all the while setting aside the projects I have been asked to work on. I myself do not know the future course of this ascetic pursuit, which perhaps will not end forever.”
A Mirror of the World
NANZUKA UNDERGROUND MAP
Nov 12th (Sat.) – Dec 25th (Sun.), 2022
Tuesday – Sunday/11:00 – 19:00
*closed on Mondays, holidays
A Mirror of the World（chap.2)
3110NZ by LDH kitchen MAP
Nov 15th (Tue.) – Dec 24th (Sat.), 2022
Tuesday – Thursday / 11:00 – 16:00, Friday – Saturday / 11:00 – 17:00
*closed on Sunday, Mondays and holidays
3 Chome-30-10 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan