Visionaries: Making Another Perspective
March 9, 2023 - June 4, 2023
Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art website
December 9, 2022 - December 21, 2022
Born in Kagoshima, Japan in 1982
Lives and works in Tokyo, Japan
Finished Doctorate at Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Fine Arts; specialized in metal casting
Received master’s degree at Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Fine Arts; specialized in metal casting
Graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, department of crafts
【Selected Solo Exhibitions】
Kengo Takahashi (SEIZAN Gallery, Tokyo)
【Selected Group Exhibitions】
Special Exhibition “Contemporary Japanese Crafts: Reinterpretation, Exquisite Craftsmanship, and Aesthetic Exploration” (Miyazaki Art Centre, Miyazaki; Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art, Kyoto)
Special Exhibition “Contemporary Japanese Crafts: Reinterpretation, Exquisite Craftsmanship, and Aesthetic Exploration” (Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, Tokyo)
On This Shore (SEIZAN Gallery, New York)
Amazing Craftsmanship! From Meiji Kogei to Contemporary Art (Abeno Harukas Art Museum, Osaka)
Bi no Yokan 2019: ∞directions (Takashimaya, Tokyo/ Osaka/ Nagoya/ Kyoto)
The 48th Dento Kogei Nihon Kink-ten(Traditional Metalworking Exhibition) (Meiji Jingu, Tokyo)
Gendai Kogei no Tenkai 2019 (Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, Ishikawa)
The illusion of Metal Casting (The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo)
Amazing Craftsmanship! From Meiji Kogei to Contemporary Art (Gifu Prefectural Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu / Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art / The Suiboku Museum, Toyama)
Japon-Japonismes. Objets inspirés, 1867-2018 (Musée des Arts Décoratif, Paris)
Gin no Shizuku/Silver Drops: Break (SEIZAN Gallery, Tokyo)
Amazing Craftsmanship! From Meiji Kogei to Contemporary Art (Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo)
Material Symphysis (University for the Creative Arts, Surrey UK)
Gin no Shizuku/Silver Drops: Prelude (SEIZAN Gallery, Tokyo)
The Second New Fueled Crafts International Young Artisans Exhibition－Flame (The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo)
Mito heno Gusho: The TEWAZA III (Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Tokyo)
Fushigi! Kyoi! Omoshiroi! (Saihodo Gallery, Tokyo, continued in 2017)
Nihon no Chokin: Imono no Katachi-ten (The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama)
The Melting Pot for Tomorrow (Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka)
Chūgoku cha kagami-ten (Chongqing, China)
be green exhibition (Gallery SHINSEIDO, Tokyo)
Cha Jing”–International Tea Culture Exchange Exhibition (The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo/ Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, China)
Mitsukoshi Art Fair (Sendai Mitsukoshi, Miyagi)
sotten (Art Front Gallery, Tokyo)
Katakatachi. (geidai art plaza, Tokyo)
Soyokaze-ten (Seibu Ikebukuro, Tokyo)
Imono no Mori (Ueno Matsuzakaya, Tokyo)
Shibuya Style vol.6 (Shibuya Seibu, Tokyo)
Something Precious (SEIZAN Gallery, Tokyo, continued in 2016, 2018)
Dōbutsu no Mori (Utsunomiya Museum of Art, Tochigi)
Minami Nippon Art Exhibition (Rokumeikan, Kagoshima)
The 5th Geidai Art Plaza Awards Exhibition (Geidai Art Plaza, Tokyo, continued in 2011)
Konsei Ⅱ (deco galeria, São Paulo Brazil)
Nomura Art Award for Thesis work (Tokyo University of the Arts Art Museum, Tokyo)
Tansuiou Award at the Satoh Artcraft Research & Scholarship Foundation
Geidai Emerald Prize (Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo)
Rookie of the Year Award at the 46th Dento Kogei Nihon Kink-ten(Traditional Metalworking Exhibition) (Meiji Jingu, Tokyo)
NHK Utsunomiya Station Chief Award at the 8th Sano Renaissance Chukin-ten (Sano Culture Center, Tochigi)
Grand prize at the 7th Sano Renaissance Chukin-ten (Sano Culture Center, Tochigi)
Metro Cultural Foundation Award at graduate exhibition of Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo University of the Arts Art Museum, Tokyo)
Taito-ku Honorable Mention at Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate Exhibition (Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo)
Haruji Naito Award (Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo)
After the immense natural disasters that occurred in Japan’s Tohoku region in March 2011, I not only became more conscious of death but also began to reconsider what it means to be alive. I began to focus on the contemporary outlook toward life and death, eventually capturing my thoughts in a series of works based on the theme of “rebirth”.
In this chaotic age we live in, repeated technological development has improved our daily lives, but though we might try to avert our eyes, “death” exists for someone. If, however, we choose to look squarely at that truth and overcome it, a new life, in other words a “rebirth”, awaits. In my process, I continually confront “death” in this way and try to capture the “rebirth” that exists beyond it.
As an artist, I have experience with all variety of casting techniques, from the oldest of traditional Japanese methods to the newest skills and procedures, and I presently choose a method whereby I use real objects as molds. I first place natural flowers in the mold and sinter them, destroying the flowers in the process. Melted aluminum is then poured into the resulting pattern and the flowers are born anew as a dazzling white object.
Does this process not signify rebirth? For me, it has a strong ritualistic meaning.
I destroy the flowers using sacred fire and send the shape and form of the flowers to the next world. The soul of the flowers is transferred to the pattern and the heat energy of liquid metal is breathed into the cast. The mold breaks and the cast metal object emerges, still hot, as if the flowers themselves have experienced new life.
My process is thus the transfer of life itself.
The “Flower Funeral” Series
After the disasters of March 11, 2011 in Japan, my works began to consider not only the “life” at the surface of contemporary society, but also the “death” that lies behind that surface. The “Flower Funeral” series began with the purpose of exploring these twin concepts of “life and death” that are so fundamental to all living things.
The first work I made for this series was called “origin as a human” and it sought a return to our primordial instinct to mourn death. Our reasonable, economic world has provided us with many benefits, but there are also many who have lost their lives or find themselves in danger due to war, terrorism, poverty, suicide, racism, and other manmade problems. It is for this reason that I thought it necessary to re-explore the feeling of mourning at its most fundamental level.
The piece consists of forget-me-nots, the flower of true love, arranged in the shape of a Neanderthal skull and paired with the offering of a garland made from flowers used in Buddhist ceremonies. While explanations vary, the Neanderthals are said to have been the first humans to develop a culture of using flowers to mourn the dead. This custom was not performed with an emphasis on ritual, as it is today, but is believed to have been a pure demonstration of despair at the loss of a companion.
This means that the original basis of mourning was the single-minded act of showing feelings for one another. Could we not describe that as a way of expressing love? In this way, the Neanderthal skull also carries the notion of “true love” that is symbolized by the forget-me-nots.
The animal skull was based on the theme of “consumed lives”. Capitalist societies turn all things into products and animals are no exception.
This does not mean that I intend to criticize industries that utilize animals. Death exists as an endpoint for all living things. That of course includes all of us, and all other animals, including livestock and pets. As such, I believe it is important for producers and consumers to take responsibility for both the life and death of these beings.
The piece “flower funeral -cattle-” is strongly imbued with that idea.
I was first inspired to explore the theme when I learned of the nuclear accident that occurred in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami on 3.11.
The area within 20-30 km of the radiation leak was labeled hazardous and after evacuation, dairy farmers were unable to immediately return, leaving 3,000 heads of cattle to die of starvation. Even now, I am unable to shake the memory of seeing farmers collapsing in tears as they apologized to their cows.
This gave me a painful sense of how much I had turned a blind eye to the “exchange of life” that is most important when enjoying the benefits that animals provide. I had thought of the nuclear accident as a man-made disaster and yet, I had been using the electricity that resulted from nuclear power without much awareness. I had been far too ignorant of the accident’s true meaning.
Through these pieces, I hope that the viewer will re-experience a sense of gratitude for the lives of others that sustain their own.
The groundwork for this piece is the story of Adam & Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit.
The forbidden fruit was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve ate
of the fruit, despite being ordered not to, and earned the wrath of God, who cast them out of the Garden of Eden.
When we examine this episode from the perspective of modern life, there are many ways it can be interpreted.
Through the indispensable weapon of “knowledge”, mankind has experienced the glory of great prosperity, but at the same time, we are cursed from birth with the burden of original sin. In all things learned, be it science and technology or historical awareness, there will always be knowledge that we would be happier not knowing or knowledge that carries the torment of guilt. Such knowledge will likely continue to increase in the future.
Those of us alive today live on the basis of that accumulated knowledge, which means we are truly burdened with the collective weight of our past.
Knowing that, what is the best way for us to proceed?
Shall we eat of the forbidden fruit and open our eyes to the wickedness of the world, or close our eyes and live peacefully in total darkness? That question is asked of us on a regular basis.
In form, the piece depicts the skulls of Adam and Eve, as well as the forbidden fruit from which they ate. The forbidden fruit has been bitten twice. In response, we must ask ourselves who took the second bite. Was it Adam and Eve, some figure from the history that led to our present, someone living in our world today, or was it you?
The choice of interpretation will depend upon the heart of the viewer, but it is my personal hope that each interpretation will include an element of “love”.
Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise together and because they were together, mankind continues to exist. Without a doubt, the presence of someone to love has enabled us to live under the weight of our sins.
Thus, even when we are confronted with scenery that compels us to avert our eyes, the feeling of love represented by someone thinking of another still remains within that world.
The unit material used to compose this work was forget-me-nots. These small flowers, said to represent “true love”, carry my hopes for such a message.
When I first arrived at the theme of how we view death, something that has since become the primary focus of my work, it next became necessary for me to replace my conception of ‘life’ with the concept of ‘rebirth’. This piece expresses that theme.
The piece treats deer as a sacred animal and when viewed from the front, it evokes a ‘stillness’ reminiscent of Buddhist statues, whereas viewed from the side, it expresses the dynamic moment of initial ‘motion’ as the deer is born from the forget-me-nots.
By combining the interaction between the separate paths of ‘life’/‘death’ and ‘stillness’/ ‘motion’ into a single composition, it evokes the fluidity of the cycle of reincarnation.
―The work on exhibition is both an exploration of “prayer” as a theme and the physical embodiment of an “object of prayer”―
One year after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, I visited the areas affected by the disaster and found, amid the vacant land, traces of the lifestyle that had previously existed there.
A moment came when I sensed the echoes of death in those traces and the soles of my feet began to quiver as an overwhelming feeling of fear and helplessness spread goosebumps across my entire body, leaving me unknowingly clasping my hands.
At this point in my career, my artworks have been presented along three conceptual lines: the contrast of the emptiness I sense from human beings and the polar opposite feeling of longing I have for the pure “life” represented by animals, the realization of “death” I felt after experiencing the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster, and acts of reverent mourning for the dead. This new piece, however, was created with “prayer” as its theme.
“Prayer” is simultaneously the act of making a wish and a way to imagine a better future. Through the act of prayer, humans force their negative emotions to shift in a positive direction and perhaps, they can even generate the strength to overcome the fear of death and continue living.
Thus, as we continue to live in a contemporary age overflowing with chaos and negative energy, should we not reconsider the importance of prayer and the necessity of that which can be an object of prayer?
Pure Breath・Giant Salamander
As I was observing the giant salamander at Ueno Zoo, its slow movements while it floated buoyantly in the water made it seem as if it existed in another world, far removed from the bluster and stress of contemporary society. . Its carefree pace and the smooth, expressionless face that are unique to its species were quite adorable and at the same time inspired envy. I then decided to capture those feelings in this work.
At the time the piece was made, I was not particularly focused on the theme of death. Rather, I felt a longing for the pure, guileless everyday existence of living things and made that the center of my practice. Looking back, however, I can see that the sense of balance between ‘expression’, ‘materials’, and ‘technique’ that I value so much in my work was gained during production of this work. As such, it remains a valuable part of my oeuvre.