Chiho Aoshima, Mr. and Aya Takano in Lyon

Last Thursday, i spent a couple of hours at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lyon. They have a superb exhibition of the works of three of the most famous artists from Kaikai Kii Co., the art nexus run by Takashi Murakami: Chiho Aoshima, Mr. and Aya Takano. According to Murakami the Japanese do not separate art and commerce like we do in the West. Art is closer to entertainment than to philosophy and ideology. Kaikai Kiki was therefore created on the lines of a management company that sells prints, stuffed toys, clothing and other art merchandise, while supporting the gallery and museum shows of its artists.

Takano’s Black Dog

The first room of the exhibition presents Aya Takano‘s endearing world of noseless, big-eyed girls discovering (hetero/homo)sexuality. Her work finds inspiration in the ukiyo-e and shunga tradition. The manga-like paintings and watercolours elegantly reflect the current Japanese transliteration of the Lolita complex, called Lolicon.

The way she uses diluted paint highlights the sensual simplicity and childish perversion of her portraits. I particularly liked the series of little drawings that come with a very short text relating a sexual experience. Their titles gives you an idea: The First Time I Had An Orgasm Was, A Night of Forbidden Desires, I Felt His Penis Press against My Groin, The First Time I Did It, etc.

0hughug3.jpg0hughihg3.jpgI Know That Just A Kiss Will Take Me far away and When We Said Goodbye, A Hug Was Not Enough

The second room of the exhibition was occupied by Mr.’s works. Taking his name from the national baseball superstar Shigeo Nagashima’s alias “Misterâ€? (which makes it tricky to find information about him on google), his drawings, paintings and giant dolls depict large-eyed cartoon characters in a context which is often sexual. Like Takano’s his art pieces echoes the fascination with young children found frequently in the Japanese comic industry. His fame started with the tiny drawings of manga-inspired lolitas he was drawing on tickets, agenda pages, etc.

View of the exhibition and In my house

The young girls of his “kawai/cute” paintings and sculptures have pink hair, they wear very short skirts, briefs or nothing at all. They jump, danse, fly and tease carelessly. The most fascinating piece of the show for me wa a painting called Journey. The artist made the work a couple of years ago but he wasn’t happy with it. To give it a new twist for the Lyon exhibition, he decided to burn it. The hardest part of the work/performance was to stop the fire when the piece was good enough.


Finally came Chiho Aoshima’s computer-generated world of desire and terror where skulls, flowers, reptiles, and young girls inhabit a mechanized future. Recalling historical Japanese scroll painting, each image created by the artist (whose City Glow graced Gloucester Road tube station in London) is infused with stylistic references to manga.

0contended.jpgA Contented Skull

The disasters and looming threats Aoshima presents in her works are gracefully choreographed. If you never thought that plague could be exquisite, have a look at Magma Spirit Explodes. Tsunami Is Dreadful, from the right to the left of the composititon tormented sea waves effortless give way to human despair and bright flames.

View of the main room and Ero Pop

I put a few images on flickr. I wish i could have taken more but after having told me for the third time that pictures were not allowed inside the museum, the guards were getting quite irritated. There’s a virtual visit of the expo online though.

Merci neurone1234 for the links you sent me!

Images of Aya Takano’s works: 1, 2 and 3. Check also her flash animation: The world after 800,000,000 years.
Images from Chiho Aoshima’s works: 1, 2 and 3.