Shinro Ohtake at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

It’s been 16 years since Ohtake held a show of this scale. Viewing 500 pieces of his work was simply overwhelming. My first encounter with Ohtake’s work was at Benesse Art Site Naoshima in Naoshima Island. He re-created an old bath house by collage, but not as simple it seems to sound but he made the tiles, faucets, all the amenities and you just have to be on site to be blown away. My first impression of Ohtake was “Crazy Guy”.

Ohtake’s Retrospective was divided into 7 themes.

  • Self / Other 自/ 他
  • Memory 記憶
  • Time 時間
  • Transposition 移行
  • Dreams/Retina 夢/ 網膜
  • Layer/Stratum 層
  • Sound 音

His early works starts out with painterly marks and scratches on the canvas but as you move deeper into his creativity , more and more “objects” are collaged into his painting. They are pieces of memorabilia of places he traveled, where he lived or just some things he encountered.

His work starts out as a pure act of randomness. But as he works on adding bit and pieces, he sees something emerging and work it up into a piece of art. For some reason, I don’t feel any egoism from his paintings. I feel the haunted craziness (lol) , his passion for digging in to find something (or just beauty) but no matter what the motives are the paintings are obviously Ohtake Shinro all over it but egoless.

Ohtake’s work was so poetic. When you look at them closely, there are so many going on. It can be said it’s just, junk over junk over junk but what makes a big different from the others are that when you take a look from a distance, they are a beautiful painting.

As I gazed at the paintings, those layers and layers are just like the view of my mind. How my minds are continuously collecting informations and layering on top of each other. All the info’s can be never erased but just covered with a new info, on and on and on.

I once came to a realization that you can never delete anything from your mind. You think you can, says those hippy by meditations or savvy mindfulness works. But to be honest, can you really? My approach is sort of shown in Ohtake’s painting. Just let it be. Let it stay were it want to be and just keep going on. When time passes, it might turn out to be as beautiful as Ohtake’s painting.

You can view this exhibition until Feb 5 2023. If you happen to be in Japan and love art, just go.

Shinro Ohtake Retrospective at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo


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