1977 Tokyo-born Nobuaki Takekawa appears to be a cat-person. He also seems to be a highly focused, detail-oriented artist who uses the sincerity of lovingness and cuteness to ask political questions in the most biting way, yet, never from a distanced or heightened position. The show incorporates installations of Olympic game stadiums, models of planes, wall installations, and paintings. Over 2000 individually handcrafted ceramic cats await the gallery visitor, ready to be heard for their needs, devotion, and anonymity.
Ota Fine Arts Singapore shows ‘Cat Olympics: in memory of Torajiro’ from 2 March until 7 April 2018. The work refers to the 2020 Olympic games, which are to be held in Japan, Tokyo. The show’s title is also a tribute to the late artist’s cat Torajiro. In his studio, three cats currently accompany and inspire Takekawa. The appreciation of this friendship is apparent in every aspect of Cat Olympics.
Takekawa uses the beloved creature of the cat as a metaphor for the human individual within mass society. Doing so, he also implicitly notes on the Japanese culture of cuteness, ‘Kawaii’, bridging his ceramic installation works and his paintings, which display an equally cartoonish aesthetic of movements and scenes that resembles children’s book illustrations in their wittiness, animated gesturing, and single-frame storytelling. The titles of the works and the different sections of the show reveal a deep conceptual approach and the artist’s reflection on a global society’s history. The cats appeal to their audience to let them be how they are, to not force them to perform tricks, to not favour one over the other, to interact with them whilst respecting their freedom, to make basic needs of water, food, and love accessible – to make human rights accessible.
'Cat Olympics: Opening Ceremony' by Nobuaki Takekawa, 2017
The cats who are athletes and the cats who are audience members are not distinguishable, but for their positioning within the installations, and only few dare to break the norms of assigned movement and static gaze. Takekawa devotes a set of four paintings exclusively to the 1936 Olympic games, replacing people with cats, and discussing the recruitment of the ‘Nazi-youths’, the glorification of assimilation of the individual into the march of unidentified bodies of totalitarianism, with a smile, and the honour of the participant, and the innocence of cuteness.
'The Bell of the Cat Olympics' by Nobuaki Takekawa, 2018
Takekawa manages to stay on eye-level with his subject and to take his metaphor, the cat, the viewer, and the political issue serious. He operates with honesty, and an outstanding critical voice that is a rare find, truly fulfilling the role of art as discourse. The artist doesn’t just look to the 2020 games with suspicion and an appeal to his home country, but at our society to date, asking us to reflect on the tricks we make us play on one another, time and again.
‘Cat Olympics: in memory of Torajiro’ is a multi-layered must-see for every aspect of its multifarious conceptualisation and exploration of humanity.
More information about exhibition and gallery can be found here.
The title of this article is quoted from T. S. Eliot: ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, first published in 1939, Faber and Faber
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
Back to Top
Sign up for the latest updates
in contemporary art & design!