10 APR – 11 MAY.2019
A solo show by Aaron Scythe
Weasel Gallery welcomes Aaron Scythe with his solo exhibition, 浮かんできたTo Float, as our fourth show of 2019. Comprised entirely of new digital paintings, this is a first for the internationally acclaimed ceramic artist, who typically exhibits his paintings alongside three-dimensional pieces. Bold, chaotic and humorous, Scythe’s graphic works are a pastiche of Ukiyo-e and Shunga genre’s, Kabuki theatre, Basara style and the artist Masami Teraoka (b. 1936).
Ukiyo-e which literally translates as “pictures of the floating world” was a style prevalent during the Edo period of 1615-1868. As Edo (modern Tokyo) became the seat of the government, the city experienced rapid growth which was uncharacteristically advantageous for the merchant class. Indulging in sensory pleasures with their new found wealth, the hedonistic lifestyle of the merchant class was immortalised in woodblock prints and paintings. Works produced in the Ukiyo-e style have become significant reference points for Scythe, including and more specifically, Shunga. Shunga, which translates as “spring pictures” refers to Japanese erotic art. Shunga is not an overt aspect of Scythe’s work however elements of the genre can be seen as well as a sexual tension throughout the body of work. Scythe’s red ice block features in the hands’ of many of his subjects, dripping due to the heat of Japanese summers whilst simultaneously acting as a phallic symbol. Scythe enjoys this light playful reference whilst also engaging his audience in word-play - from popsicle to Pop art.
Scythe takes a special interest in Kabuki which is a form of Japanese dance-drama. Within his work Sycthe references Kabuki by depicting his characters as if performing mie; a powerful emotional pose struck by the actor at pivotal points in a narrative. In performing mie, actors will hold a pose, freezing for a few seconds with their eyes held wide open, or cross-eyed to depict anger. Another element of Scythes paintings whereby he also references Kabuki is through the androgynous characters which inhabit the work. With longer faces and broad shoulders, Scythe’s figures often don school girl attire and of course have breasts. Traditionally, male actors played both female and male roles in Kabuki, this has become a favoured and prevalent aspect of Scythe’s image vocabulary. Leading on from this narrative there is a streak of rebellion that twists itself through Scythe’s work, a feeling of mischief and defiance. The baseball bat and school girl outfits reference Sukeban (the Japanese term for a girl boss or the leader of an all girl gang). This chaotic, showy style whereby Scythe employs an excessive use of objects in the compositional structure of the work references the basara style. Scythe’s painting express his personal take on basara which hints towards the slighting of authority and a love for the extravagant and vulgar.
Last but not least, Scythe is heavily influenced by the work of Japanese-American artist, Masami Teraoka, and pays homage to him throughout his practice. Like Teraoka, Scythe experienced the collision of Eastern and Western cultures and hence juxtaposes these two worlds in his work as they are in his life. Hamburgers, soda and popsicles fly through Japanese environments or rest clutched in the hands of his subjects. Food appears a simple way to convey a melting pot.
Scythe resided in Japan for 16 years before returning to New Zealand. Scythe has enjoyed over 60 major international solo shows to date, and his work is held in many significant collections throughout New Zealand, Japan, Europe and America. We are thrilled to host Aaron Scythe at Weasel Gallery with his body of work, 浮かんできたTo Float, which contemporizes the Japanese painting form with a playful irreverence.