Bottomless Darkness

A talk with Akihito Takuma.

Please tell us about your remarkable technique of painting?

My paintings are oil on canvas, varying from abstract to concrete. I finish all my paintings by running a two-meter-wide brush from top to bottom before the paint dries. Using this method means part of the painting cannot be modified. Especially on huge screens, it is impossible to manage from one end of the screen to the other, and it often fails.If I make a mistake, I will have to start over from scratch. This method takes a considerable mental toll. However, the joy of success is incomparable to anything I have ever experienced. This happens when the surface I see goes beyond anything I would have ever expected. There is not much pleasure to be derived when things exactly go as planned. I found that the more oil used, the more the paint will spread out like water. On the other hand, lesser oil will make the paint harder, producing more irregular spots. What is expressed completely differs depending on the paint’s thickness. Also, when drawing a city’s landscape, the scenery disappears after running the brush. From my experience, I discovered the right dimensions, such as the window sizes, so the scenery would not be lost. It’s not good if it disappears too much, and it’s not good if it’s too visible, so I value the balance. I find it more beautiful to have a slightly imperfect result than things perfectly going as planned.

Is there any particular reason why you use only (or mostly) black paint in your works?

I’ve always been fascinated by Goya’s Black Paintings series in Madrid. Aside from this, I love Picasso’s Guernica, Pierre Soulages’s black works, and Frank Stella’s The Black Paintings. I find Goya’s Black Paintings especially moving no matter how many times I see them. In Japan, we have a culture of ink and lacquer, with their beauty stemming from the gloom. The French philosopher Gille Deleuze said that a world without others is ruled by dazzling light and bottomless darkness. My works are black, representing the bottomless darkness. However, they do not stand for destruction. Black can take shape from the darkness.

What are the feelings you think an observer of your work experiences while watching them? Is (in your imagination) this close to what you would like to transmit to your viewer?

When looking at my works, there may be times when they cannot be seen clearly, which can be frustrating at times. However, there will be a moment when a shape is born from this. I want people to see this moment. At one point, it looks like fireworks, and some say it looks like there is a person. My paintings also give a different impression when viewed up close and from a distance. I want people to feel the comfort of this balance.

You once said your work depicts opposing forces, could you explain?

If you run a line horizontally on the screen that spreads horizontally, you will get a cohesive work. However, I run it vertically, leading to different vectors appearing on the surface. This can be frustrating sometimes, but I believe there has to be a minimum balance between two different things. This can be vertical and horizontal, white and black, outer and inner, Eastern and Western, and many others. The etymology of perspective also means to see clearly, which considerably contributed to Western painting. In Japan, humidity is high, and the climate is volatile, meaning one cannot see clearly into the distance. In many cases, it goes on ambiguously, without a clear black and white. This proves that conflicting things each have their own importance.

What are you working on at the moment?

Although I am currently making a colored work, I have not revealed it yet. Bringing in color makes it difficult to create an axis of opposition. Aside from this, some things do not fit into my work’s concepts, making things problematic. But, I am still going to unveil it someday, so I hope you look forward to it.

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