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Makoto Kanaya, "Papaya," 2006, oil on linen, 30 x 40 inches.
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Makoto Kanaya, "Maia," 2006, oil on linen, 29 x 39 inches.
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"Jade Vine II"
Makoto Kanaya, "Jade Vine II," 2006, 40 x 30 inches.
MAKOTO KANAYA, Plant Planet
JACANA Art Gallery
Feb. 1 – 18, 2007
By Beverly Cramp
Surrounding oneself with images of tropical plants has a salubrious effect during dreary winter months. Certainly that is the experience of stepping off a Vancouver street and into Japanese artist Makoto Kanaya’s exhibition of tropical botanicals currently showing at JACANA Art Gallery.
Although a resident of Northern Japan, Kanaya has traveled and lived extensively in the United States and Jamaica. He frequently visits Hawaii, and this latest grouping of eleven realist paintings is inspired by the plants Kanaya sees there.
It’s not just the vibrant colours that Kanaya is so adept at depicting, but also the texture and quality of light he captures in his plant worlds, and his unique sense of perspective. An ornamental ginger flower towers into intense white light, but is viewed from darker undergrowth in Moi, a 30- by 40-inch oil on linen painting. Without being so direct as to present a patch of blue sky, the notion of intense sunshine comes from the use of white colour at the top right corner of the painting. Yet the shadows darkening leaf fronds in the bottom half of the painting indicate the denseness and darkness below the ornamental ginger.
The interplay between light and shadow, and the mixture of vivid colour and darker hues, is also evident in the paintings titled Maia and Papaya. But unlike the other paintings, which don’t show blue sky directly, these two oils do have patches of blue. The inclusion of specific blue sky stands out against the absence of it in the other paintings.
In a corner of JACANA, grouped together, are three paintings of the rare jade vine. The flowers of a jade vine drop in stalks of up to 50 to 100 flower spikes that are an unusual sea green colour. The flowers are also unique in shape, resembling insect arms or bird beaks. Kanaya paints the jade vine flowers from three close-ups: Jade Vine II is the most extreme close-up, followed byJade Vine II and finally, Jade Vine III provides the widest view of the flower. Not only is Kanaya able to explore the colour, texture and form of the flower in this series of close-ups, the overall painterly effect veers into the surreal, especially with Jade Vine II.
A fourth grouping of works uses the lotus plant as its subject. Again, Kanaya plays with perspective and suggestion. Lotusis the only painting depicting a fully-opened flower at the height of its lifespan. It is surrounded by images of other lotus life stages: the young flower buds, and signs of dead or dying flowers in the images of fallen lotus petals floating in the surrounding pond. Green lily fronds get the majority of attention.
Lotus II takes a closer look at a dying lotus flower - several of its petals have already fallen off. And Lotus III has no actual flowers, only reflections of lotus flowers in water.
Kanaya’s recent paintings are studies of light and shadow, super-realism and dream-like reflection, suggestion and the literal, and life and death.