By: Yelin Gemma Lee
Takashi Murakami’s The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg exhibition, which is running at the Vancouver Art Gallery from February 3–May 6, is extraordinary. It’s a loud anthem-like calling to all artists of any kind to go home and vicariously practice their craft, and throw all the passion and strangeness from inside their souls onto the canvas. Walking through the exhibit was unlike any other Vancouver Art Gallery experience I’ve had — I felt goosebumps wash over my skin in waves while viewing each piece. Although surrounded by a massive amount of people in a sweaty and suddenly too-small space, I felt like I was being swept away into a different dimension. All of his works depict the chaos and carnage of our world, but in the most vibrant, innovative, and obscure way — most with political or social critique behind them. Each Murakami piece is a statement, and each demands your full attention.
Murakami fuses together traditional Japanese methods and European influences to compose his creations. He has to be one of the most daring and fearless artists in the world. He welcomes controversy and the obscure by playing wildly with textures, shapes, colours, and by collaborating with brand names. For example, he was the creator behind the Kanye bear and produces his own product lines featuring his art on them. “Murakami considers his collaborations as ‘disruptions’ to the expectations of a highly stratified art world system that prizes exclusivity and elitism,” according to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s website. In other words, I think he’s saying a big “FUCK YOU” to conventional standards of the art world and the idea of art being inaccessible. It’s as though he is breaking down the fences of the elite art community and calling all people to own the right to the art world, whether it be to create or to experience it.
The website further describes that Murakami is trained in “the Nihonga style of Japanese painting, which uses mineral pigments for vivid colours and meticulous craftsmanship.” He also plays around with the ‘superflat’ concept a whole bunch, but somehow it never gets repetitive or tiresome. His paintings all portray animatronic, robotic, inhuman, grotesque creatures and sceneries, using the texture to convey the horror. Still, all of his paintings use vibrant colour and details to boggle the mind and create a sense of fantastical illusion.
Most of his work focuses on the “dangers of nuclear power and global consumerism,” as described on the Vancouver Art Gallery website. The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is, in short, an exhibit of the horrifying and dangerous parts of humanity. Ladies and gentleman I’m talking about monsters! Trolls! Skulls! Gore! Flowers! Spirals! Robots! Cute and creepy creatures! All paraded around the gallery’s neutral walls in explosions of colour and texture. There’s nothing like this exhibit. I must urgently dare you to go and revel in it.