Everybody loves you

By PETER NEUMANN
 

How much of who we are is determined by where we are? By person in relation to place? In a marvelous and unusual combination of modern and traditional techniques Daisuke Takeya uses oil painting and an audio/video installation to probe issues of identity. It is a polished work which contrasts human warmth with cool calculating concepts. Projected on one wall is a video image of an industrial skyline. Opposite and on a tiny little monitor embedded in the wall a video displays the heads of 100 people who each in turn, sincerely tell us “I love you.”

In the adjoining gallery, painted in oil, hangs six pairs of portraits and cityscapes. Takeya, Japanese born (1970) but educated in the United States and a graduate of the New York School of Visual Arts, has won numerous awards for art and illustration. In the oil paintings for “Everybody loves you” he shows a technical brilliance.

The atmospheric skies in his landscapes rival Monet or Turner. In the portraits the sitter stares out frankly confronting the viewer, part mug shot, part rich classical portrait painting with dramatic lighting that would make Caravaggio jealous. Only the tops of shoulders and heads of the subjects are painted and videotaped but somehow it is clear they are all naked. This apparent nakedness increases the juxtaposition between the cold grey landscape and the warmth and sincerity of the people in the portraits.

The link between them and the city is the issue Takeya wants us to address. Not between these specific 100 talking heads and this particular panning skyline of New York city seen from an industrial edge of Brooklyn, but rather the more general connection between humans and their urban environment. Our place in the world.


Peter Naumann is the Head of Education + Public Programs at The National Gallery of Australia. The text is taken from his past reviews on Japanese art scenes.