Critics’ Picks

Nobuaki Takekawa, Mynah Birds in Hawker Center, 2020, watercolor and ink on paper, 45 1/2 x 55 1/2".

Nobuaki Takekawa, Mynah Birds in Hawker Center, 2020, watercolor and ink on paper, 45 1/2 x 55 1/2".


“Straits: Nobuaki Takekawa & Tang Dixin”

Ota Fine Arts | Singapore
7 Lock Road #02-13 Gillman Barracks
January 15–February 29, 2020

In 2014, Nobuaki Takekawa and Tang Dixin discovered their complementarity and began to collaborate. For “Straits,” inspired by the island city-state of Singapore, the artists produced fantastic, childlike, or otherwise witty pieces that exposed their minds’ inner workings in bizarre, symbolic ways. Everything informs their drawings and paintings: an insect climbing up a root or branch; the sound of birds flying overhead; a green snake that is about to glide along but changes its mind when it sees them; mosquitoes that annoy them as they walk through the forest near Gillman Barracks, one of the city’s natural environments that they immersed themselves in to develop the works in this exhibition.

In the oil painting Two Bodies (all works 2020), Tang depicts a pair of nude figures in a manner both expressive and abbreviated, indeed almost ungainly; they resemble demons, centaurs, or early men. Working in a more cartoonish vein, Takekawa puts a humorous twist on Singapore’s bird menace at hawker centers, caricatures the annual Dengue prevention campaign “Do the Mozzie Wipeout,” and portrays migrant workers as ant colonies living and working together. The collaborative mixed-media-on-paper work Relax is Our Identity conjures the sensation one experiences upon opening a window as the noises of the Singapore street rush in, filling the senses.

The obviously hilarious acrylic-on-canvas Drinking and smoking after lunch pictures two oversize mosquitoes wearing yellow boots, quaffing Singaporeans’ favorite beers and smoking cigarettes, all while brandishing cancer information booklets with their long, fragile-looking legs. The duo succeeds by disarming the viewer, making us smile and briefly lower our guard, until their messages hit full-on. The joke’s on us.