Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Takao Tanabe


I first became interested in Takao Tanabe’s abstract work some years ago, noticing he, like Ellsworth Kelly, was fascinated with the abstraction of landscape.

'Passing Rainbow'. 1968 Acrylic on canvas. Vancouver Art Gallery.

Born in Seal cove near Prince Rupert, British Columbia in 1926, he has been an eminent painter for the past 50 years.

After training and teaching painting in several Canadian universities, he studied at The Central School in London, exploring Japanese ink painting (sumi-e) and ‘Zen’ calligraphy at the Tokyo School of Arts.

In 'Red Hills', 1957, I see a similarity to my 'Zen' images, with their hidden imagery and mystical beauty. I am hoping to move on from designing my Zen images in meditation, to setting myself a source and painting a 'seen' image in a Zen state. I am also researching working with music and sound and movement, of perhaps dancers.

'Red Hills' 1957. Oil on canvas.

He began as a painter of abstract expressionism, creating striking pieces often hard edged and of contrasting bright colour and black and white. Later he painted softer, misty simple, representational landscapes eliminating all non essential detail.

His abstract paintings always referred to the land although not always consciously. As early as 1955, artists and critics identified his abstract expressionist work as ‘real or imagined landscapes’.
The National Gallery of Canada and The Canada Council for the Arts

'Envelope Sketch.' Takao Tanabe. Color Lithograph and serigraph on wove paper 1968 (edition).

National Gallery of Canada.

I love the idea of creating a design in an envelope format so that when you open it up, it will appear as something else.

'Early Autumn'.1967

Of his current work, he said:

“What I want is this completely unoccupied pristine land, as though I am the first person to see it. It’s lovely, it’s mysterious. It has wonderful appeal to me. I feel great kinship with it”.

As with Ellsworth Kelly’s abstract work I do find a beauty in Tanabe’s linear art and abstract breakdown of space. I am more and more drawn to simple asymmetric design, which can be applied to anything, bags, garments, hangings, ties etc. and I will use my own simple dividing of colour as a base for my ‘Zen’ imagery. I see myself as a flat surface pattern 'print' designer.

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