This post is late... like... later than late...
You know those times when you want to go to a party, but you don't want to be the first ones there because you A. look like you have nothing else going on in your life and B. would show up awkwardly early and have to help Stacy top all the avocado toast appetizers she thinks are somehow gonna be better than just getting everyone wine, so you sit in your apartment with your flatmate who awkwardly wasn't invited to the party and pregame on grape vodka while watching Murder She Wrote but you loose track of time because Angela Lansbury is such an engaging detective and you are amazed at how dangerous a tiny town in Maine can be with all these murders, then you pull yourself together, rush over to your friends party, and burst in the door, Kramer-style, as everyone is belting out the final note to Sweet Caroline before the party becomes irrelevant.
Yeah... that kind of late...
ANYWAY... I should probably start talking about
YOSHITAKA AMANO: Deva Loka Genesis at Art Statements Gallery
...I have a... cautious relationship with Anime...
Not that I hate it, I just don't see characters with over exaggerated chin lines to be any more or less superior than say... the Men in Black animated series.
And being a white guy who speaks Japanese, I often get clumped into the "Oh, you must be an otaku" stereotype ( westerners who obsess over the nerdier flavors of Japan, spouting out random phrases in Japanese that make no sense and carry around copies of Ranma 1/2 "just in case you haven't read it yet").
I did watch anime growing up; with all the crap it gets from its association, there is a lot of amazing anime. But I never watched it to the extent of many Japanamazed westerners. So, to avoid the association, I don't often flash the fact that I own every episode of Cowboy Bebop... on VHS...
So when I heard that a Yoshitaka Amano (天野 喜孝) show, Deva Loka Genesis, was coming to Art Statements in Wong Chuk Hang, I approached it with the same caution that William Shatner approaches a Star Trek Q&A session... I appreciate the content but avoid the consumers.
The pro-log: Yoshitaka Amano's first gig was a character designer for the anime adaption of Speed Racer in the 1960s. He continued his career through the video game boom of the 1980's, doing still designs for character concepting and title typography for Final Fantasy. To this day, he has remained as a chief character designer for the franchise, with his hand on most every main title, collaboration, and offshoot, recently conceptualizing the title design and promotional content for their 2016 mashup "Final Fantasy Brave Oddesy Harvest Megumi Crusher Arcana XV part 2 Tactics", or something like that... Never the less, his work is a mastery of the craft, and the brochure put out by Art Statements showed that the work would be held "alongside pieces of inspiration" from art history, which looked pretty neat-o.
I arrived at Art Statements with a friend immediately after work about 30min after the show was scheduled to open. We appeared to be the first people in the gallery, which was both gave us an air of relief as we had free reign of the gallery, but also made us instantly the least cool people who would come into the gallery that night (please refer to the opening paragraph), as all the established gallery hoppers would be meeting at trendy cafe's to pregame with $50 espresso shots around this time. What was cool, however, was Art Statement's newly fixed air conditioner!
The series selected reflected a combination of Amano's large scale, fantastical neon scenes full of action as well as more minimalist renditions of characters from his Gatchaman series. Amano constructs his compositions with a high level of fluidity. Even with his more futuristic works, we rarely see straight lines. This gives his landscape action compositions a constant feeling of excitement and movement, while in a different standpoint, breathing an ever-moving life into the very 2D style of his portraits. As well, the consistent curvature gives the cartoonish characters a believable, fluid body without the over exaggerated "looking at a stranger through a lava lamp while drunk" effect that comes with hyper-rendering many cartoon characters.
Each composition is meticulously painted in a smooth and flat fashion with very little variation in shading. This adds to the sleek texture of Amano's futuristically clothed characters and space vacuum feeling larger compositions. The truly interesting choice of his medium is the sparkly backgrounds added to each composition. Upon further inspection (aka actually reading the work's card) we found this to be automobile paint. PUNK. ROCK! The use of automobile paint for a more conventional style painting was unexpected, gave the work a new, unique dimension aesthetically and conceptually, and made me so excited I wanted to dance on them like a mini-skirted woman on a car hood in a White Snake music video.
While these works in themselves were not eerie, the contrasting inspirational pieces escalated this exhibition to something surreal.
Throughout the gallery, Amano's works are flanked by ancient Buddhist sculptures from which Amano drew inspiration. The artifacts pairing themselves to Amano's work like Moscato to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, expectedly sweet but unexpected in a formal setting. The sculptures were displayed in the most idyllic fashion next to Amano's compositions, giving both room to breathe as individual works, yet close enough for them to be compared.
Alongside these artifacts, Amano's work was lifted to a more futuristic and otherworldly position. While overt likenesses could be drawn between the inspirations and pieces, Amano's metallic paintings are suddenly viewed in a new context of existing in the same conscious, but a different reality and were giving me some definite "Coherence" vibes... Except with less comets, less dimensional twins... less of Nicholas Brendon's boyish good looks... and more references to Buddhism...
Overall, for the size of this show, Yoshitaka Amano's Deva Loka Genesis brings something aesthetically to the table that we don't see often in a gallery setting and proving my art school entrance proficiency test's "NO ANIME" warning should now be rethought.
Yoshitaka Amano: Deva Loka Genesis is on display at Art Statements in Wong Chuk Hang until May 20th (but may have been extended until May 30th if their most recent Facebook post is accurate). So I suggest you run... or take the MTR, that Aberdeen Tunnel freaking sucks...
Factory D, 65 Rd Gee Chang Hong Centre
Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong
Open Monday-Saturday 12pm to 7pm