Rieko Otake creates wood sculpture using camphor, cypress, or katsura. Many of her motifs are human figures and birds so figurative, yet their gender-neutral, profound expressions remind us religious sculptures with abstract and enigmatic quality. In the artist talk held at her solo exhibition in 2009, Otake remarked that when she tried to create a face out of wood, it was quite frightening that the sculpture could look like a face very easily with a nose and a mouth. She said that she wanted to develop the original world with forms, instead of explaining forms by meanings. She is not satisfied with expressions of human figure or birds on the level of appearance, but goes deep into the material and uncovers what makes it human or birds. Also, Otake consistently does not paint wood for her sculptures to keep the material’s fresh quality and beauty. It also demonstrates that wood is more than just material for her. For example, two works both titled “Tori Tori” (2008), which were shown in her first solo exhibition at Tomio Koyama Gallery, were created from a chunk of one wood split in half. She applied the angle of how these pieces of wood were cut, and created the two human figures leaning towards front, and back accordingly. Her elaborate engagements with material can be found in her work’s original presence.
This exhibition is her first one at the large gallery space on the 7th floor of Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo. It will present about 10 new wood sculptures including a large figure of a girl and others with motifs such as a boy, deer and duck. “Mimi” in the exhibition title is a name of a child who she does not even know. On the exhibition Otake states, “With my work and installation, I would like to explore what I still don’t know, things that exist, things don’t, and something in between.” This is a theme that she has worked on over years. Regarding her exploration into “existence”, an art critic Toshiaki Minemura observed on her last solo exhibition Dreamlike:
The artist, who was (probably) still quite young, had succeeded in gently objectifying the delicately fluctuating inner life of a young woman and showing the uncertainly and ambiguity of being. She was moving forward steadily toward a special and structural grasp of a sense of existence shared by such dualities as “I” and “someone else,” “great” and “small,” “share” and “there,” “the world you see” and “the world you have seen before.” (…) She seems to have dropped her anchor in the mystery of existense, the central issue of sculpture, with a precision that cannot be achieved through ordinary abstract sculpture.
(Toshiaki Minemura“As If the Branch were the Bird, On the Wood Sculpture of Rieko Otake”Rieko Otake Dreamlike, 2010)
Her work was featured in a group exhibition “Rieko Otake, Hideaki Kawashima, Naoki Koide” at 8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery earlier this year. At this exhibition, she will fill the large gallery space with a group of new work.
Rieko Otake was born in 1978 in Kanagawa. She graduated from the department of sculpture, Tokyo University of the Arts in 2002, received MFA in 2004, and completed the doctoral program in 2007 in the same university. She currently lives and works in Kanagawa. She was nominated for The 9th Taro Okamoto Memorial Award for Contemporary Art in 2005, and her work is included in Takahashi Collection. Her major group exhibitions include “Sculpture from Stories”(2007, Chinretsukan Gallery, The University Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo) and “As Long As Rainbow Lasts”(2011, Soka Art Center, Taipei). This is her third solo exhibition with Tomio Koyama Gallery after “Tori Tori” in 2008 and “Dreamlike” in 2009.