Keiichi Tanaami, Goldfish, 1982.

Keiichi Tanaami, the exhibition of Japanese Avant-garde Art pioneer Keiichi Tanaami’s work, has been officially on view in K11 Guangzhou. This is the first international art exhibition in K11 Guangzhou,the brand new art and cultural landmark. It is also the first presentation of the 82-year-old Japanese Pop Art master Keiichi Tanaami’s representative work since the 1960s.

Keiichi Tanaami, curated by Venus Lau, the artistic director of the K11 Art Foundation, aims to present the artist’s creative practice in each period and stage of his art career. More than forty pieces of work in a wide range of media are presented at the four galleries of the chi K11 Art Space, including paintings, prints, collages, and sculptures by Keiichi Tanaami from the 1960s to the 1970s, and “life and death” series in the 1980s, large-scale easel paintings since 2010, and furniture designs and sculptures. The exhibition not only embodies the individual soul-stirring trajectory of the artist, but also reflects the changing of times over the past half-century.

The artistic practice of Keiichi Tanaami is like a mirrored pattern seen through a kaleidoscope—elements of different cultural contexts are reflected in his works, forming a mosaic that is ever-changing. Tanaami’s silkscreen print series “No More War” (1967) references the spiral patterns typical of psychedelic art, an art movement that emerged between the 1960s and 1970s in the West. In this exhibition, alongside the prints are large, compositionally symmetrical drawings and multi-limb, humanoid sculptures by the artist, and together they create a spectacular panorama of mirroring effects. Memory—especially personal trauma—is a subject matter that Tanaami consistently explores in his works. Recollecting his childhood memory of watching the silvery scales of his grandfather’s goldfish glittering in the crossfire, and of witnessing the brutality of war, he created a series of anti-war works that transform horrors into fantastical patterns and vivid colors. The intolerable illness, near-death experience, and drug-induced hallucinations are transformed to the figure of twisting pine trees, which constantly appears in his work.

Venus Lau, the curator comments, “There are a lot of recurring images in Tanaami’s work, inspired by his traumatic experiences. For Tanaami, the visualization of these experiences is not so much a form of self-healing, but as a process of reconstruction of personal memories. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato likens memory to the inscription on wax tablets. Tanaami’s stylistic choice for piecing together his memory fragments is different from this kind of inscription, which stresses faithful representation, or any kind of linear narrative that serves as an archival record. He extracts his memories like an alchemist, transforming them into a visual language that reminds of us of horror vacui. The eclectic range of elements, crammed onto the same plane, converge and collide. All linear memories seem to have become the small iron balls in a pachinko machine, bouncing between different scenes.”

Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1936, Tanaami has been active in contemporary art, graphic design, illustration, and film sector since the 1950s and still maintains a strong creative passion and artistic vitality. He is known as the “visual magician” for his absurd fantasy image style, whose artistic creation has a great visual impact. Tanaami has a far-reaching influence on Pop Art and Avant-garde culture with his artistic creation for more than 50 years. His works have been widely exhibited worldwide, and have been collected by major international art institutions, such as Tate Modern, Hammer Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Walker Art Center, etc.


chi K11 art space
No.6 Zhujiang East Road, Tianhe District
Guangzhou | China

Keiichi Tanaami, Goldfish, 1982. Ink, color pencil on paper, 56.5 x 76.4 cm. Courtesy of the artist and NANZUKA.