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Kawaii...but painterly

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Date: 
Thursday, 18 January 2024 to Saturday, 10 February 2024
Opening: 
Thursday, 18 January 2024 - 6:00pm

GR gallery is pleased to present “Kawaii…but painterly”, Takuya Yoshida first solo exhibition with the gallery and in New York City. Spreading around the whole space, the show will be comprised of fourteen new artworks on canvas in various sizes, almost entirely completed by the artist during his summer and autumn art residency in Connecticut and New Hampshire. Appositely conceived for the event, this new body of works expands Yoshida’s visual vocabulary with enhanced colors and symbols inspired by his experience in New England and deepen his discourse on the mythologization of everyday life and his reshaped interpretation of primitive art. Executed with the artist unique style, inspired by a nostalgic naïve aura and characterized by a vibrant and thick palette, these works are advancing a reflection on the importance of an emotional and poetical connection between people and nature, society and environment, especially critical in today’s circumstances.

nspired by the idea of a cross-cultural exchange, the title refers to Japanese popular culture of cuteness, always vailed with hints of innocence and melancholy, now combined with a more westernized pictorial and perspective style, influenced by the myth of the Garden of Eden and the art movement of ‘Return to Order’. 
Yoshida's canvases convey a desire for peace and universal love; to keep this desire fresh, he strives to complete his paintings in one go before his emotions subside. However, in the process of making a painting he ends up overpainting dozens of times until he is satisfied. The creatures in his paintings may appear kawaii at first glance, but a closer look reveals distinctive textures and brushwork that evokes painters of the Ecole de Paris era. Regarding overpainting, Yoshida describes it as “an indispensable process for turning my ideas and expressions into universal paintings.” The motifs that appear on Yoshida’s canvases include creatures with a somewhat lonesome appearance, evenings, nights, and skulls. These motifs continually appear among rather strange and awkward likenesses of people who strive to be strong in the face of the indescribable feelings of suffering and decay they face. Yoshida’s unique artistic vision may be described as the expression of this not-so-lighthearted subject matter in a unique and interesting way. His paintings use non-realistic colors and creatures to express eternal themes that people must face, including the human-created boundaries of race, border, and gender, along with other boundaries such as Heaven and Hell. The world of Yoshida’s artistic vision, with its harmony of chaotic colors and compositions, is perhaps not an impossible alien world so much as a world of hope that can be realized. Confronting solitude in Hokkaido in Japan’s rural north, Yoshida overpaints day after day, imagining a peaceful new landscape on the other side of the canvas.

Artist ( Description ): 

Takuya Yoshida (b.1986, Tokyo) lived in Saitama Prefecture until the age of 17.  At that time, Yoshida was a tanned boy who spent time outside playing in the small woods and ditches at the corner of the densely populated residential area, searching for crawfish, tadpoles, and frogs and walking his dog. As a boy, he learned alpine skiing and swimming and gradually began participating in national competitions. Yoshida was never happier than when spending the weekend away from the city, skiing in the snow-covered mountains and enjoying nature. By his teen years, however, as he traveled back and forth between the city and countryside, he began to question whether people and nature coexisted well in Japanese cities. He also developed a rebellious attitude toward the education system, where students study to gain acceptance to a good university. At the age of 17, he decided to go to the United States to study skiing and enrolled at Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine. Moving to the United States alone and experiencing barriers of language, race, and physique in sports, it is easy to become discouraged. Amidst the majestic nature of Maine, he began to grapple with troubling questions that had no answer: who am I? Where do I belong? It was then that he began to develop a fresh interest in American music and art. He began to see the strong potential of painting as a medium for expressing and conveying his feelings and thoughts and began experimenting with pencil drawings and other media. After graduating high school, he took a break from skiing and discovered oil painting at Plymouth State University. Encountering the unique colors, smells, and techniques of oil paint, Yoshida was convinced that this was the medium he had been searching for. He studied oil painting at university and then deepened his studies at the graduate level at the New York Studio School. There, he received technical instruction in how to paint in a “painterly” manner and learned how to see the real world as it is and express it in paint. After graduating from New York Studio School in 2013, he was awarded the Hohenberg Travel Prize and traveled to Italy for three months. There, he was captivated by art of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, especially the paintings of Giotto, Duccio, and Sassetta. He was impressed by the way the figures in the paintings were as large as the buildings, and the way they were rendered in a simplified manner. It seemed to Yoshida that these painters felt free to depict a world different from the real world. Another reason Yoshida was strongly attracted to the paintings of the early Renaissance was their use of gold leaf and other features they shared in common with the work of Japanese painters such as Tawaraya Sōtatsu and Ogata Kōrin. Soon after, Yoshida’s US visa expired, and he reluctantly returned to Japan in 2014. For the following two years, he worked in a small studio in Tokyo. However, in search of a more spacious studio, he moved north to Hokkaido, re-establishing himself in the same kind of majestic nature where he was first inspired to paint after pondering “who am I and where do I belong?” Three years later, a colorful, paradise-like artistic vision teeming with people and animals began to emerge in his plein air works created face-to-face with nature. At that time, he began exhibiting his work in and outside of Hokkaido. His solo exhibition at the Toyako Museum of Art, titled Ikimotachi-ga Yadoru Hanpu (“Canvas that Harbors Life”), broke the museum’s record for the highest number of visitors to a solo exhibition and prompted a visit and critique from contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara. He also gained attention for a mural more than 20 meters long adorning the Super Kumagai Supermarket, completed as part of the “Roots & Arts Shiraoi” project. In 2022, he returned to the United States for a stint as a guest lecturer and artist in residence at the Phillips Exeter Academy. Now based in Hokkaido, he continues to be active both in Japan and abroad. 

Venue ( Address ): 

255 Bowery, New York, NY

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