Found an article I wrote for a magazine on Takeshi Kitano when his 2012 exhibition opened. The article was never actually published, but I thought I wrote something good here. Thought I'd share:
Takeshi Kitano, also known as ‘Beat’ Takeshi, is probably best known in the Western world as a staunch, dramatic actor and an acclaimed filmmaker, whose often bleak, realistic films have won him countless awards. In the east, he’s still thought of as a quick-fire manzai comedian and presenter. There’s a natural confusion about Kitano, evidenced by his twin names and his enigmatic life as both the funniest and most austere entertainer Japan has produced, evidenced in a few of his films. Recently he has released a trilogy of surreal comedy semi-autobiographies, the first of which, aptly titled Takeshi’s, is the story of two men - both played by Kitano – who represent these two sides of his personality. So it would be natural to assume, when he released a gallery of his paintings and sculptures in Paris both in 2010 and 2012, that we would see a clash of ideas, a complex duality within himself escaping into one of the most expressive forms of art.
Except that that is not the case, well, not really. The works on offer at Kitano’s exhibition “Gosse de peintre” are simple, but meaningful pieces of art that showcase a softer Kitano wrought with wit and irony. Among the pieces are strange sculptures – his Secret Weapons of the Japanese Army include a whale grafted onto a fighter plane, an elephant with a machine gun for a trunk – paintings of people and animals, and videos of himself. Every piece has a little gag somewhere. It’s a fun exhibition by a man whose art career originated when he began painting after a motorcycle accident almost twenty years ago.
His paintings have featured in many of his films. In Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, his character paints to express his mistrust in the younger generation, but also his veneration for one particular student. In his own Hana-Bi, his ex-yakuza character takes up painting when he has to flee to a beach-house with his wife. In his films, the art is representative of an inner struggle. But in reality, Kitano claims they are just for fun.
”I don’t define myself as a contemporary artist. I’m just a modest idea maker. I feel very embarrassed when people define me as an artist. I want to show pieces. Easy to understand, funny pieces. I want to share with you the pleasure that I had by creating this exhibition,” he said, at the opening of his 2010 exhibition.
In a way, it’s almost a bridge between the two personalities – the Beat side, and the Kitano side – where the ascetics of his film self and the goofiness of his TV persona meet. Within the stark simplicity lies a complicated man, but one who is never above having a laugh.