“Takanobu Kobayashi Exhibition”


Nishimura Gallery
Closes in 10 days

The phenomenon of hikikomori — young adults escaping from the pressures of modern society by retreating into their bedrooms — is well known. But fewer people know of sotokomori, a similar phenomenon where people escape abroad, usually to countries with a low cost of living. There, the gentler pace of life and lack of social interaction that comes with the language and cultural barriers serve the same function as bedroom walls. It’s easy to see Takanobu Kobayashi in these terms.

His submarine series from the early 1990s, in which a small submarine was the protagonist, suggested someone who liked to shield himself. Since 1999 he has lived mainly in Chiang Mai, where he says the slow lifestyle and tolerance of the people appeals to him. It has also enabled him to gradually re-engage with the normal world that exists beyond the often autistic isolation and repetitiveness of the dedicated painter’s lifestyle.

Last year he got married and, previously unable to paint people, he has gradually been coming to terms with the human form, as this exhibition of 11 large canvases show. Five years ago, he started painting figures from behind, gradually moving to faces with eyes shut, and finally to faces with eyes open. His unadorned, smoothed-down style, which evokes comparisons with CG imagery, reflects the fact that he doesn’t paint direct portraits of people, but instead uses his impressions of those around. This gives his art a feeling of intimacy that is not entirely divorced from a slightly fetishistic quality.