Hope Embedded in Darkness: Bear, Munch, Cheeseburger, and Others is the artist Takuya Yamashita’s first solo exhibition in Taiwan. From his works, one can see the artist’s sarcastic view of the “darkness” within the structure of consumer society as well as the “negative emotions” shouldered by the artist himself. All these ideas that appeared in infinite times in the artist’s mind have been transformed into “hope” through the printmaking artworks. Let’s appreciate together some of Takuya Yamashita’s works from recent years, to see how the artist merges the public and private issues in the same graphic works and how he rubs them into different pieces with all his strength.
Printmaking is a very simple medium for creation, which can easily reproduce works with just some materials and techniques. Takuya Yamashita has chosen printmaking as his creative medium and focused the works based on the themed mascots of various organizations, institutions, projects, enterprises, groups, political propaganda, and advocates. For instance, “Mayor McCheese” who once showed up as McDonald’s mascot and disappeared due to copyright infringement; “Fei Wan” who was once a mascot of a football club that was disbanded due to the poor management of the sponsoring company; “O-chan” and “Ku-chan” the bear mascot of Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located;
“Uranium Boy” and “Pluto Kun”, mascots of the Atomic World Exhibition Hall inaugurated in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture in 2012. These mascots were once adored by the people yet were forced to leave the stage due to various complications. Takuya Yamashita chose to summon once again these mascots, inquiring about the contradictory dilemmas of their origin and cause of disappearance. After selecting suitable representations among the countless images that wander on the Internet, he used exaggerated colors and turned each of the mascots into an art installation.
In this exhibition, he also displayed the works derived from his personal divorce experience. By holding the negative feelings and emotions, negative imageries would haunt Takuya Yamashita’s mind from time to time, and such negative imageries would further attract other negative notions. Because of his family’s medical history of Schizophrenia, he has been living in the fear of stepping into the same world, leading him to suffer from innumerable sleepless nights. Even in the face of such a painful whirlpool, Takuya Yamashita kept insisting on printmaking creations. He believed that printmaking creation is the only way to turn negativity into creative energy. His previous printmaking that pays tribute to Edvard Munch’s printmaking Separation and the work that quotes the lyrics of Kanye West, who also went through a divorce, are the works created based on Takuya Yamashita’s personal experiences.
In modern times, anybody can quickly transmit their personal ideas and beliefs through the Internet and social media platforms. However, it is the wish of this exhibition to introduce this modern artist who drifts along the Japanese society through slow-paced printmaking, for you to capture the silver lining among the works.
Woodcut printing is “a media that conveys information” through images, often produced and used for distribution in different areas of Asia. Therefore, woodcut printing is closely related to modern political and social movements in Asia; it is not even overemphasis if it’s said that woodcut printing is the preceding embodiment of the social media platforms on the Internet. Not only can it present specific slogans but also bear the empathetic network constructed by the people’s emotions under the wheel of arduous times.
Woodcut printing needs the creators to carve the wooden panel into an image with a knife and apply pressure to rub the image on the paper. Thus, it is not only a plain image as it contains the creator’s physical labor and in-depth feelings. It is also this medium’s feature that, during the creative process, the materiality, physicality, and energy of the entire process are merged into it.
Personally, I often use wood as a medium for my creations. I have always tried to focus on human emotions and feelings, showing in my works the beings in modern society under the colonization of media and capitalism. In this exhibition, we can see various kinds of anxiety and entanglement, such as: the mascots that were born for promotional purposes but were then abandoned; and artists’ printmaking themed on madness, melancholy, and separation; rap song lyrics created on the theme of reflection. These elements highly resonate with my inner heart, so I hope to spread such a feeling to more and more people through my creative works.
Until now, as I have been enduring society’s exploitation and pressure, the negative thought keeps wandering in my mind. Still, if I am capable to turn these feelings into the driving force of creations, hope is then inside these negativities. I kept diverging the constant resurgence of negative feelings and emotions into a massive amount of woodcut printing and rubbed them into works, one after another. Through the endless repetitive rubbing movements and the process of promoting printmaking from exhibition halls into the streets, I intend to show the public how hope sprouts out of heartfelt despair.
Born in 1985 in Mie Prefecture, Takuya Yamashita is currently living in Nagoya City. Graduated from the Graduate School of Arts, Kyoto City University of Arts, and he majored in sculpture. He chose mascots born in the consuming society and created a series of works under the theme of “symbols with incomplete functionalities”. The main form of creation was woodcut printing. By replicating these abandoned imageries extensively, they just propagated within the space. From these works, we are able to see the real face of society that lies beneath the cute appearance of the mascots. Takuya Yamashita’s past solo exhibitions include: “Love, Jealousy, Separation (sampling Munch, Kanye, etc.)” in CADAN Yurakucho (Tokyo, 2023); “Mascots, Kanye West, Tacos man and others.” in Token Art Center (Tokyo, 2021); and “Ningxia. Rd. Sec. Y” inβpatz (Karlsruhe, Germany). Group exhibitions include: “Aichi Art Chronicle 1919-2019” in Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art (Nagoya, 2019); “stuck in the between” in JAFFA MUSEUM (Tel Aviv, Israel, 2018); “RESIDENCY ARTISTS EXHIBITION” in TaipeiArtist Village (Taipei, Taiwan, 2018); “PLAY IN THE FLOW” in Sriprakard (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2017).
Takuya Tsutsumi is an independent curator and a graphic designer, based in the Kansai region of Western Japan. Since 2018, he has served as Program Director for the shared studio space “Yamanaka Suplex.” After a yearlong residency in Poznan, Poland, he went on to obtain his MA in cultural studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in 2019. Whether he is creating exhibition spaces or producing printed materials, Tsutsumi constantly experiments with the organically fluctuating roles and relationships with artists, all while maintaining the specific purpose of the projects. Some of his main curatorial projects include Aichi Triennale 2022 (2022, Aichi, Japan), Osamu Torinoumi Making Type: Like Water, Like Air (2022, Kyoto, Japan), Salt of the Blood, Light of My World (2021, Tokyo/Kyoto, Japan), The Analogical Mirrors (2020, Shiga, Japan).
Taipei City Government
Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government
Digital Art Center, Taipei
Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan
VOU / 棒
Mistralin International Ltd.
田中英雄 Hideo Tanaka
深野一朗 Ichiro Fukano
高山羽根子 Haneko Takayama
湯木尚武 Naotake Yuki
柵木頼人 Yorito Masegi
新城順子 Junko Araki
近藤令子 Reiko Kondo
Heineken Silver Beer
小柴一浩 Kazuhiro Koshiba
畑中さおり Saori Hatanaka
Digital Art Center, Taipei
No. 180, Fuhua Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City, Taiwan
Opening & Guided Tour
2023.08.12 Sat. 15:00
2023.08.12 Sat. 14:00–18:00
2023.08.13 Sun. 14:00–18:00
2023.08.15 Tue. 14:00–18:00
2023.08.16 Wed. 14:00–18:00
2023.09.23 Sat. 15:00–17:00
Zoe Yeh（Curator / Director of Honggah Museum）