Tomie Ohtake’s Imperfect Geometry in London

Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 2008. Photo Courtesy of the Artist and Galeria Nara Roesler
Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View at White Rainbow
Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View
Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 2014
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With her first solo exhibition in London for over 20 years, Tomie Ohtake continues, even after her death, to fuel new engagements with the imperfect geometry of her late period abstractionism at the White Rainbow gallery. Tomie Ohtake was an esteemed Japanese-Brazilian artist, who impressively balanced the aesthetic values of these two different cultures through colours and materials; blending interestingly Japan’s red colour with Brazil’s yellow shades in her artistic practices.

TEXT & IMAGES: Yannis Kostarias

Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View at White Rainbow
Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View at White Rainbow

 

The show at the White Rainbow gallery features successfully selected art pieces that bring out the distinctive elements of both Ohtake’s painting and sculpture motives enabling the viewer to further discover the artist’s identity. In this respect, Tomie Ohtake demonstrated a strong involvement in the development of abstract experimentations and languages, either in her painting or in sculptural forms, incorporating influences from Zhen Buddhism, calligraphy as well as the Japanese abstraction movement. Particularly, Ohtake’s visual style in sculptures was mainly concentrated on curves and curlicues.

Pursuing to engage with the artworks, I felt conscious towards the small-scale line-based sculptures, all placed next to each other to create an abstract choreography through a variety of elegant movements on white carbon steel. Taking into account the spatial interpretation of this minimal installation, the shape of these sculptures reveal a soft power which transforms them into bespoke mediums of art. It should be highlighted that the exhibited sculptures in the gallery have never been shown before in Europe.

 

Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View
Tomie Ohtake, Exhibition View

 

Ohtake’s creative output was not limited to geometric sculptural constructions, but also excelled at monochromatic paintings. Furthermore, Ohtake’s artistic synthesis encapsulates a strong commitment on the term of ensō or circle. The notion of ensō projects a symbolic interpretation into Japanese abstract art, representing not only void and emptiness, but also completion and substance. These Japanese aesthetics infuse a remarkable sense of spirituality deriving from the Zhen Buddhism principals. For instance, meditating before the painting process or controlling the breath while painting were great contributing steps to the final outlook of the artwork. Having being influenced by such concepts, Ohtake’s painting process strove to capture the process of its creation. Her refined circle’s depiction on these white, blue and red paintings indicate a poetic expression of her creative identity, while by giving an ethereal manipulation on the brushstroke the artist aimed to practise her ensō paintings as an creative model of spiritual discipline.

 

Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 2014
Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 2014

 

Tomie Ohtake developed her artistic practice in a discipline dominated by male artists. Yet, she established a successful career overcoming the obstacles of a time when museums and galleries gave high priority to the work of men. Notwithstanding the female under-representation in the art world, Ohtake shaped her own artistic identity and distinctive style. Now, the White Rainbow gallery provides ample exhibition space for the female artist and encourages the audience to familiarise itself with her work. On top of that, Georgia O’Keeffe’s recent exhibition at Tate Modern as well as Dorothea Tanning’s show at Alison Jacques gallery sparked a series of conversations in London about the remarkable lack of female artists in the art world. Despite of their great talents, the legitimacy of their work was recognised late.

Overall, this show is nicely separated between material, colour and gesture; moreover, it underlines Ohtake’s ensō period of which both exhibited paintings and sculptures serve the techniques of the monochromatic artistic codes. Most definitely, Othake’s paintings and line sculptures evoke a balanced rhythm in the gallery space. The exhibition provides all these creative materials and mediums, even for demanding viewers, for a thorough and appealing engagement with emblematic Asian monochromatic artists, showcasing the late Tomie Ohtake and her life-long commitment on this distinctive form of art.

 

Tomie Ohtake
Imperfect Geometry
29 Sept- 12 Nov 2016
White Rainbow, London

 

 


Yannis Kostarias (IG: y_cos) was born in Athens (Greece) and lives in London (UK). Graduate student at King’s College London on Arts & Cultural Management (MA) with a diverse academic background in Political Sciences and Film Studies and work experience as an audio-visual expert in creative projects and scientific assistant in a European programme, as well as in managing workshops and campaigns, in freelance and corporate environments. Keen on contemporary art, film, photography and fashion.

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