「re vol.2」

biscuit gallery / Tokyo



Text by : Shinzo Okuoka
Photo by : Naoki Takehisa

biscuit gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition “re vol.2”, featuring Ai Kumehara and Kenta Takahashi, from October 8 to October 28, 2023. Continuing from “re,” this exhibition aims to be a partial sampling of today’s art scene, with the underlying intention of sharing with viewers a place to recapture and rethink our artistic soil today, where Western-compiled contemporary art and Japanese art intersect. 

The exhibition title, “re,” refers to the prefix meaning “again” or “back”, and for that etymological reason, “re” is accompanied by some original or confronting matter. At the same time, this “thing to confront” is one of the main themes of this exhibition, and the purpose of this exhibition is to reexamine the expression of a part of today’s art scene that exists as a result of the acceptance of contemporary art as an alien species within a country that already had a distinct form of art, and to reconsider the possibilities of “contemporary art” for us without eliminating both of these two factors.

However, to avoid misunderstanding, both Kumehara and Takahashi in this exhibition (although they share a broad definition of “contemporary Japan”) are artists with different artistic interests, and the purpose of this project is not to provide an opportunity to analogize their common ground in terms of expression. The gist of this project is twofold: to explore the soil shared by two artists with different orientations, and to introduce the outstanding work of two artists on that soil with intermingling factors. In inviting the two artists, we have introduced the accompanying motif of “surface and depth” in “re” this time. The former is a paraphrase of the expression form of Japanese painting after the 2000s, and the latter is a paraphrase of the expression of the presence or absence of margins in Japanese painting. I hope to build an opportunity to think about our art from two observation points, “what we can see” and “what we cannot see (directly).”

Then, what is “depth”? I define “depth” as the area that is not in front of our eyes, but can be sensed by premonition, or the sensibility itself. It is the mind that senses something in the dark and is frightened, the hidden nuance behind the words, or the world in another person’s head. In order to think about this, the exhibition relies on the words “Amari no Kokoro” (a mind of abundance) as described by the mid-Heian poet Fujiwara no Kinto in his “Waka Kuhin” (Nine Grades of Poems), and “Yori-no Kokoro” (Lingering, or emotion that drifts outside of the words) as described by Kamo no Chomei in “Mumyo Sho” (his theory of poetry) in later times. The work is not tangible, but one has the feeling that it is there, just because it does not appear. In this “re” exhibition, we would like to consider this point with paintings by Ai Kumehara, who has intentionally used fixtures to create a blocking effect on her paintings, suggesting an unidentified presence. She creates a duality of “visible and invisible” in her paintings, that is, she presents the viewer with a picture that makes us foresee and imagine existence through absence. This “not in front of you, but you can feel it” is the “inner” touch that I would like to consider in this exhibition, and it seems to me that there are many poetic languages that describe this uncertain sense of touch in the history of art that we carry with us.

Kenta Takahashi, on the other hand, is a painter who, in his own words, sees Japanese painting as “something that has remained,” and based on the cultural transformation and alteration of the Meiji and postwar eras, understands and practices the context of Japanese painting today based on his unique historical perspective. His paintings are based on the reality of life in today’s digitized world and the modernity of modern city dwellers, and he incorporates the unique line drawing techniques and particle-like textures of Japanese painting, while mixing them with the sensibilities of the generation born in Japan in the 1990s. Many of his paintings seem to confront the Japanese sense of iconography and painting techniques and attempt to bring them into contemporary painting. “The art history of the place where I happened to be born was not consistent with that of the West at least,” he said. “But I don’t want to despair. I want to think of a positive way to look at it,” he continues, breaking down the complicated intertwined factors of art history into its elements and starting from the soil where they coexisted rather than ignoring each and every one of them, which sometimes seem to contradict each other. It is the part that examines formalism, but only in the way that he adheres to it, and it seems to begin with identifying “what has remained,” to use his words.

Text by: Shinzo Okuoka
Translation by : Elizabeth Jesse