By PAUL LASTER April, 2019
Constructing her own spiritual universe populated by nature-loving nymphets, Aya Takano invites viewers to get lost in her imaginary erotic realm. Returning to New York for her second solo show—the first at Perrotin's sprawling L.E.S. space—she’s offering a new series of drawings based on the 48 sexual positions of the Japanese kamasutra and several new canvases that flaunt her luscious, manga-inspired mode of painting.
Presenting these pieces in the playful exhibition UNIO MYSTICA, Takano recently spoke to Whitehot about her art and beliefs.
Whitehot Magazine: When did you first become interested in art?
Aya Takano: I was around three years old when I saw an Impressionist painting in a newspaper. Ever since I wanted to be a painter. My mind never changed. I took art classes in school. The first works I made as an artist were drawings—painting came later. When I was a college student I saw a flyer for volunteers at Takashi Murakami’s studio. I responded and started working with him. I showed him my work and he liked what I was doing and started showing it. It was before Kaikai Kiki, when he was still calling his art production company Hiropon Factory. He wanted to help young artists develop their work.
WH: What was your first big break?
AT: It was probably my first solo show at Perrotin in Paris in 2003. It wasn’t my first solo show in a foreign country, but it was a big break. The gallery’s director, Peggy Leboeuf, introduced my work to the gallery’s followers. I didn’t expect anything, but people really liked the work.
WH: When did you develop your unique style of portraying skinny, wide-eyed female figures?
AT: I started drawing girls like that in high school. I had wanted to make fashion drawings so I drew them like models.
WH: Are they skinny because they’re waifs?
AT: No, they are skinny because of their spiritual existence. The real body is not important.
WH: Are your figures also inspired by manga and anime?
AT: Yes, I started looking at manga and anime even before I could read.
WH: Is there a bit of a punk sensibility to your girls?
AT: Yes, they don’t obey.
WH: Are they intentionally acting sexy?
AT: Eroticism can be found in everything, especially in nature.
WH: Why are they often nude or scantily dressed?
AT: I want them to be more spiritual, to be uninhibited.
WH: Are they nymphets?
AT: It’s a possibility. Young people are sexually active.
WH: What role does eroticism play in your work?
AT: I want to create a realm that we can’t reach. Human senses are limited. Eroticism is one of the ways to sense the rest of the world. I believe that artists, poets and musicians—and some others—have access to this world.
WH: Is your work inspired by pornography?
AT: Not usually, but for this show I made drawings after the 48 positions of the Japanese kamasutra. Not many people know all 48 positions, so I had to look at the early representations for reference.
WH: Do you depict people having sex with animals to show that they are at one with the world?
AT: Yes, it expresses the power of nature. Humanity is not enough to express the power of nature. Some animals express kindness, some strength, others divinity…
WH: Are you interested in mythology?
AT: Yes, the works in this show are inspired by Japanese and Indian myths.
WH: Are you a feminist?
AT: I’m not one thing. I admire everything—male, female, kids, nature, animals…
WH: Is there a narrative that you keep returning to tell?
AT: I want to paint something outside of ourselves—something that’s more spiritual.
WH: Do you see yourself as a visionary?
AT: Hopefully, I am. Since high school I’ve had many visions.
WH: Are you inventing your own world?
AT: Yes, but I hope it touches others, too. Through my work they can find this new place and rise above their normal level of consciousness. It’s not only for me. It’s open to everyone. WM
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, independent curator, artist and lecturer. He is a New York desk editor at ArtAsiaPacific and a contributing editor at Whitehot and artBahrain. He was the founding editor of Artkrush.com and Artspace.com and art editor of Flavorpill.com and Russell Simmons's OneWorld Magazine; started TheDailyBeast.com's art section; and worked as a photojournalist for Artnet.com and Art in America. He is a frequent contributor to Time Out New York, New York Observer, Modern Painters, ArtPulse and ArtInfo.com.view all articles from this author