Last week, we picked a day and played hooky and went to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg.
It’s a wonderful exhibit, full of colour blasts and purposeful lines, and emotional veneers whose reflections I’m still unpacking. Lots of different mediums, well-hung and well-paced in the VAG’s space. Kale enjoyed the exhibit, but claims he isn’t sure what was his favourite piece was. The exhibit is fun and fluffy but with enough uncomfortable pieces to make you really question beauty.
From the exhibition website:
The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is the first major retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s paintings to be shown in Canada. Spanning three decades of the artist’s career—from his monumental paintings of the 1980s to new, never-before-seen works—this critical survey reveals the consistent themes and profound engagement with history that have guided the artist’s practice. More than fifty paintings and sculptures in the exhibition highlight a dedication to craftsmanship and uninhibited imagination mining a diverse field of conceptual and cultural references extending from folklore to art history and popular culture. The exhibition takes its title “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” from an ancient Japanese parable, tako ga jibun no ashi wo kurau. It refers to a situation in which one survives for the time being by feeding on or sacrificing oneself. The octopus eats its own leg to survive, but does so knowing the tentacle will regenerate. The phrase symbolises the cyclical nature of Murakami’s practice and the creative output of the Kaikai KiKi studio. Murakami is the octopus: he consumes history, culture and even his own oeuvre and fame to persevere as an artist.
I’ve gone out of my way this past two years to take Kale to arts-related events, whether they are gallery openings, workshops, exhibits, or incredible experiential shows like the ones at New Media Gallery here in New West. This visit was a bit unusual in that I made the decision to take Kale out of school for the day so that we could go. I had heard that lineups and busy-ness for this show was a thing, and so reached out to VAG on social media to ask when the best time would be. They replied if we could come on a weekday at opening it would be the least busy and so I emailed Kale’s teacher to ask what a good day to take off would be. She was supportive, as real life experiences and art are Montessori hallmarks and suggested a few days where the impact on the class or his work would be minimal. Ross played hooky with us, too.
We popped into the less showy exhibits at the VAG as well, to have a look at other kinds of art. Bombhead we left from, as I struggled with Kale seeing the subject matter after the poppy, colourful Murakami works (next time we would have done Murakami last), and Living, Building, Thinking had some nice pieces mixed in among all the angry, plain German works.The Herman Levy Legacy exhibit was mostly “old white guys painted by old white guys” but there were a few standouts in there that Kale and I liked, especially a Monet work called Waterloo Bridge, Effet de Soleil, painted in 1903, which reminded me very much of looking at the bridge out of the window from our apartment when we visited Portugal during their wild fires. Here is a “Museum Minute” with some cool historical notes about the monuments and buildings you can see in the background of this painting. (also, Claude Monet-swoon.)
I truly believe that kids don’t fully understand their capabilities, even when they have adult role models cheering them on. Seeing art, and seeing art created that is at a glance ugly or troubling or less than postcard perfect is good for them to understand art’s role in helping work through pain, trauma, anger, and other harder to understand emotions. Feeling shitty? Scribble the heck out of that page. Feeling like you’re no good? Look at all the other art out there that someone might view as not very good.
Kale has long struggled with perfectionism and anxiety and as grade four is drawing to an end, it is becoming even more apparent how much control plays a factor in his perception of the world. Today, in fact, he and I are headed to Ikea to buy a closet organizer that we can also utilize as a desk – he wants a space in his room to do his work instead of being shuffled around the kitchen table. Last week I suggested a bullet journal to him, an idea he took to readily and which he and I have incorporated into some creative time together.
He really does worry about almost everything and we use a lot of different techniques to work through his anxieties. What seems to work best is to face them head on, and talk through all the what-ifs. He is visibly relieved when he has expressed them all. He also fills silence with words if he is not doing something, spilling everything in his mind out. But when we view or do art, he is more peaceful and visibly more relaxed, though he cannot look at a blank page and fill it without suggestions from someone else. This correlates to research being done on creativity and the arts, and the power art has to relax and soothe. I show my kid art because it helps his enormous, active brain take a break.
And also, because it is awesome, and amazing.