From 21st to 25th March 2023, Art Basel Hong Kong reopened its doors since Covid. Hive Contemporary Art Centre participated in the main gallery section “Gallery Collection”, Hive was also invited to participate in the newly established “KABINETT SECTOR” of Art Basel Hong Kong, presenting Japanese artist Shigeo Otake’s solo exhibition “Undefined Spectacle”.
“My paintings are often populated by fantastic creatures: they either have a bunch of wings covered with eyeballs, or their faces are covered with anemone-like tentacles – in short, they are all strange and weird demonic night creatures. In the world of my works, these “inhabitants” from the Otherworld usually mingle with the daily lives of ordinary people; in other words, I create an Otherworld that is hidden from reality, and often depict the ambiguous border that lies between these two worlds.”
Shigeo Otake, born in Kobe, Japan, in 1955, witnessed the post-war Japanese economy from its revival to rapid growth and eventual collapse. He was also a participant in the global surrealism that developed in Japan in the 1960s that collided with the grotesque local culture. In the 1970s, Otake traveled to Europe to study Medieval and Renaissance religious frescoes. Since then, he has been exploring and discovering multiple species, especially fungi, in the rural areas of Kyoto, Japan. From the 1980s to the present day, he has been more closely involved with the Japanese publishing industry and the research community of Cordyceps than with the art community.
In his paintings, Shigeo Otake portrays an alien world hidden from reality, and this “hidden” has multiple meanings. Third, he is “hidden” from the mainstream, just as his lifestyle is inextricably linked to the city, while at the same time he can dive deep into the jungle of nature. Kobe, where Shigeo Otake was born, was the first port city in Japan to be opened to the outside world. From the rich forests of Mount Rokko to the Seto Inland Sea as far as the eye can see, the graded cultural and geographical structure not only inherits the wonders of the creation of the earth in the “Chronicle of Ancient Matters”, but also contains the universal curiosity under the mythological nurture of the people. The unique and contradictory nature of the Japanese soil, just as they cannot trace or refuse to identify with the language system, all traces from elsewhere cannot escape the fate of being swallowed and digested by this magical forest and then transformed into new stories.
Shigeo Otake grew up during Japan’s economic renaissance, and the curiosity suppressed during the war years became not only a soothing agent for the post-war population to survive the chaos, noise and anxiety, but also the root of nostalgia for Shigeo Otake and his contemporaries. Japan’s long and narrow landscape and lush mountains and forests have shaped and preserved a comprehensive system of mystical figures. There is Princess Kaguya from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Momotarō and Princess Gourd in folklore, the tools tainted with spirits transforming into tsukumogami, and Hyakki Yagyō. Shigeo Otake lives in the remote countryside surrounded by cemeteries and shrines, creating an otherworld that is interconnected with various species and reclusive from reality. Like a hunter is familiar with his mountains and forests, the multi-species inhabitants of the real world with supernatural capabilities grow, flourish, coexist and intertwine in his work, constantly sparkling the potential of painting on canvas. The whimsical Japanese mythology and the rustling whispers in the jungle form the origin of affect of Otake’s world of painting.