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.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
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.
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 practice her ensō paintings as a creative model of spiritual discipline.
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 familiarize 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 their great talents, the legitimacy of their work was recognized 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.
Exhibition Dates: 29 September -12 November 2016
White Rainbow London