TAKASHI MURAKAMI || The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

You won't be able to look away. 

The exhibition was truly mesmerizing and we were so glad to have been able to visit Takashi Murakami's exhibition, 'The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg', at the Vancouver Art Gallery prior to it closing. The exhibition is the first in Canada to exhibit such as wide range of works from the Japanese artist, and each piece shares an intriguing story. 

Whilst most people would describe Takashi Murakami as the artist who designed the Kanye Bear and the album covers for Kanye's Graduation album, Takashi Murakami's work carries much more depth beyond his ties with pop culture. All you need to do is look a little bit closer.

While you can't touch the intricate works of art, you can attempt to dissect the many layers of the art pieces visually. The overwhelming bursts of colour and materials within the SUPERFLAT collection is jaw-dropping. 

Take a look at the piece below for example, from far away, as a complete piece, you will register the vibrant, high-contrast centrepiece, which is the skull with its octopus legs in a multitude of patterns and colours. A closer view offers an entirely different way to experience the artwork, and being no art critic ourselves, we were amazed by the amount of work and attention to detail required to complete the piece. 

Waterfall Appears in the Ocean! In Its Midst, Kraken!, 2018. acrylic, gold leaf, platinum leaf on canvas mounted on wood panel.

Within the colourful, thinly-shredded 'waves' flanking the skull and the tentacles engulfing it, you can see that each strip is carefully cut out and coloured, and the artist adds an eclectic element in the smallest of places, where you see a boat ascending against the current of textures. 

Other works combine the vibrant silkscreen technique sponging and dabbing techniques to create a faded background to contrast against the captivating colours. 

The Iconic Tan Tan Bo.

At the entrance to the exhibition, the opening paragraph describes the greater meaning and inspiration behind the artist's collection. 

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (b.1962) draws on hundreds of years of East Asian painting traditions, materials and techniques to reflect on and portray the contemporary world in all its complexities. His work addresses wide-ranging topics both personal and political, including the history of fear, contemporary culture and thee expansion of global consumerism.

Knowing the purpose of the artist's work allows you to more fully experience and understand the story he depicts through each art piece, and you cannot help but be impressed by the variety of artistic techniques, textures and mediums he uses to express his views. 

Of Chinese lions, Peonies, Skulls, and Fountains, 2011. acrylic on canvas stretched on wooden panel.

At first glance, the piece below appears to be a traditional Japanese art piece, with its gold leaf, traditional hanji lettering and Japanese florals. Upon looking closer, you notice Takashi Murakami's signature smiling flowers. The effortless combination of traditional and modern makes this one of the standout pieces for us from the show.

A wall decorated with pieces of Takashi Murakami's signature smiling flowers. One look will instantly brighten your day.

The second notable piece for us is the small framed piece at the tail end of the exhibition, where small, plastic army soldiers young boys play with in their childhood are positioned with their rifles pointing outwards towards the audience. The description for the piece notes Takashi Murakami's message for this piece is to highlight how we embody the concept of warfare into everyday pieces, including toys for young children. While the point becomes blatantly obvious once we read the description, we were surprised and shocked to realize that we never noticed it before. 

If you have a chance to visit a Takashi Murakami exhibition, we strongly urge you to do so, it will educate you with new perspectives on history, culture and modern society.