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What About the Cat Olympics ?

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2018-04-03 15:40


When I arrived at the gate of the Ota Fine Arts Shanghai that opened last Fall, a motion-sensor, stainless door without handles suddenly started to open, slowly…after about three seconds, the door that looked like something out of a spaceship had opened up completely, and a pleasant warmth was emitted from within. 


I walked slowly to the entrance of the exhibit hall by following a corridor to the right of the gate. I was drawn to a couple of plane models, round edges, that were placed under spot lights on my right-hand side. I walked up to take a closer look, more than a dozen of “planes” all painted with different airline’s names were carrying rows of adorable cartoon cats. I could not help laughing and was eager to see more. 


Right after the plane models stood four pieces of artwork that looked like pink billiard tables. After looking closer, I discovered that the four artworks were made of tiles, replicas of miniature stadiums: soccer field and water park. In them were thousands of cats in a surreal and breathtaking scene. The cat sculptures, with visible hand prints, came in many different colours and forms; they are all painted with a final layer of pearly texture that under the gallery’s spot lights gave them a bizarre sheen. After looking at the cat sculptures carefully, I noticed some of them were upside down, some were diving, some were relaying the Olympic torch and some were licking their fur but in a haze, and some were staring at other cats in a daze. 


It was then that I noticed a small print on the wall close to the entrance: “Cat Olympics: In Memory of Torajiro.” I opened up the exhibit brochure and turned to page two where it says Shanghai Ota Fine Arts, artist Naobuaki Takewaka’s first solo exhibit in China; “Olympic Cats: In Memory of Torajiro.” It is Takekawa’s first solo exhibit in China and he was using the media to remember his cat. 

No wonder it looked so familiar. Last year, Takekawa’s The 2020 Summer Olympics displayed at the Biennale exhibit in Vladivostok, Russia, invited a lot of discussions on post-Olympic effect. It seems that this exhibit was a continuation of his previous artwork. 


In fact, Takekawa, who is in his early forties but still a youth at heart, has held a number of solo exhibits at Ota Fine Arts in Tokyo in 2002, right after he graduated from Kyoto University of Arts. Since then, he and Ota Fine Arts have collaborated multiple times to create art and exhibit in different forms: series of paintings, sculptures, and installations. Though his focus covered topics like “Post-Nuclear Plant Remains” and “Hate” that are all beyond the discussions of regular art with aesthetic properties only, what makes him different from other influential artists is that he always incorporates a sense of humor in his artwork - he often links cartoon characters with social issues; through the process of making an art, he presents serious social issues to his audience in a very clever and friendly way. In the meantime, he does not forget to include every single detail he had planned in his work. 


Undoubtedly, the solo exhibit in Shanghai remains the same style. Among the different cats with non-repetitive poses, there are subtle interactions among them. Rather than paying tribute to “Torajiro,” the rich content including printmaking, sculpture, and installation at the solo exhibit interprets the Olympic spirits of “mutual understanding, long-lasting friendship, unity, and fair competition.”


It is a reiteration of the original intention of the Olympics from an artist who lives in the host country of the next the Olympics: the connection between Torajiro and Takekawa may have inspired the start of the art series creation, but its real theme rather is based on Takekawa’s extended thoughts while making the art: “A cat is a very strong and stubborn animal,” Takekawa said, “They all seem to have their own requirements for life. As humans, aren’t we the same?”



“The exhibit is definitely not a criticism of mankind,” Takekawa emphasized. Yes, it seems that the intent of his creation is to call his audiences to reevaluate the special global event that occurs in every four years that attracts the attention of the entire world, reminding us to continuously go beyond our limits. As the environment of our planet faces growing threats, it calls people, as leaders of this world, to do more thinking, to integrate resources and be an advocate for peace. When the roles are secretly switched between humans and the adorable cats, artists seem to remind us to reflect upon ourselves to avoid bad consequences caused by our blind actions, and to think about the future of mankind more reasonably. 

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