Takeru Amano solo exhibition

Amano’s subjects are often classic Western female figures who have a long history of appearing in painted form; think of Venus and the Virgin Mary. These mythological Greco-Roman icons are then depicted in a 20th Century Japanese style, clean and flat, splashed with Tokyo-pop neon colours. He playfully employs the innate freedom of painting, bending mythology to his own will and humour.

For Primavera -Spring Festa- these icons return again, this time with furred and feathered companions. As the show title alludes to, these animals suggest spring time and the beginning of warmer weather; swans in lakes, dogs walked around parks, deer and horses galloping through floral fields. The colour palette also captures the season, with vibrant greens and yellows, deep blues, and faint pinks reminiscent of Japan’s cherry blossoms, a definitive signifier of the first blushes of spring across Tokyo. The compositions are airy and bright, leaving room for the spray of citrus and warming spring breeze.

The appearance of animals also continues the artist’s amalgamation of mythology and pop. The Ancient Greek stories of Leda and the Swan, Artemis and the Deer Hunter, Pegasus sprouting from the blood of Medusa, have long been tackled by painters. Amano reimagines these myths in his own graphic Japanese style, flattening them and adding simple detail with delicate and fluid line-work.

He removes the drama of the original tales, or at least the brutality between goddess and animal. Here instead, it seems they’ve partnered up, intimidatingly greeting you as you enter the gallery, unmistakably peering from their walls with blank but inescapable eyes. The mischievousness of Amano’s paintings is laid plain, the character’s languid expressions looking sardonically bored; fed up of being painted for centuries on end, fed up of being viewed, and staring back, unamused, giantly rendered and significantly bigger than you are.