Often, first impressions are shallow examinations and many truths do not come forward unless the viewer looks beyond the surface. In Indigo Wasabi, Takashi Hara looks at the paradoxical narratives within societies, of what can be presented to the public and yet have an undercurrent that is vastly different. His work is part painting, part sculpture and seems to be held in place by an unseen force with materials that look otherworldly. On the surface, they seem like continuations on the same piece, but with his theme they morph and turn into representations of hidden realities.
Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Hara began art through an extensive study of calligraphy at a young age. This leaks into his work in the “IW” series as it peeks from behind the holes created, to show the rips in society where the alternative leaks out. These repetitive calligraphy marks (in the detailed view) can be seen as ideas buzzing around in a type of ear worm for the artist, like something not on the surface but not entirely forgotten either. One of Japan's oldest art forms, calligraphy is often associated with a clear mind, pure creation and elegance. Hara takes this idea and shakes it up, comparing it to an uncontained self expression that bubbles to the surface.
One of the main materials that Hara uses is Kozo Paper. The paper comes off of the mulberry tree and the bark is steamed and stripped. The fibers are then cooked and hand beaten. The process of forming the paper is labor intensive and resembles more of a cloth than normal paper. This texture helps Hara’s paintings bend and have unique properties. The use of Kozo paper seems to also have symbolic meaning as well, Kozo paper dates back to the Asuka period (538-710) and by using this ancient technique, Hara connects to the history of those who expressed themselves through this medium.
All of Hara’s paintings utilize a deep blue color. The color is referred to as Ai in Japanese, and is a natural indigo that is prevalent throughout the country. Hara refers to this dye as “the true color of Japan and it’s people - representing the passions and connections they share - it is the color closest to their hearts.” Although the colors are concentrated to an almost black, they bleed outward spilling over the rips in the kozo “canvas.” In societies there is a general current at which the people live and have expectations, Hara shows that these put limitations on people and stifle self expression, and a natural reaction by society when it encounters someone who deviates from these is one of chaos.
Takashi Hara asks the viewer to look past the obvious and see the subtle aspects that lie within his work. His international experience gives a voice to his merging approaches to Western and Japanese characteristics, and he straddles the old and the new with precision.