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Masae KARIYA: Twins in the labyrinth
Written by Takeshi HIRATA   
Published: June 17 2010

     Masae Kariya’s first solo exhibition in Tokyo was held at Gallery Terra Tokyo in Bakurocho, Tokyo. In the past, Kariya has created fantastic painting world through a number works, such as her “Space Oddity” and “Hide Face” series. In the former, she drew many kinds of places, including a meeting room and a theater, without depicting any people. And in the latter, she expressed human faces by replacing them with faces of animals, such as those of wolves. The title of this exhibition was “Twins in the labyrinth”. In this current exhibition, we can view Kariya’s six latest works, in which animals, including lions, birds and otters, were drawn as pairs in different situations, such as a meeting room, a bed room and an aquarium. These works seem to have been created by integrating her past series, namely “Space Oddity” and “Hide Face”.
     Despite this, the space and animals depicted in her paintings in this exhibition left me with a feeling of strangeness. I am not particularly familiar with a great numbers of cities in Japan, but such feelings may have been evoked due to the fact that people in Japan rarely see animals in public spaces in cities. In most cities in Japan, animals are considered as things to be kept at home as pets or viewed in cages at zoos. It is unheard of for us to find a lion in an office or a bear in a living room. Unlike pets, such as dogs and cats, it may be difficult for wild animals to live in cities. The pairs of animals which Kariya has depicted in impossible situations wear some things that look like eye masks or facial masks. They even seem to feel uncomfortable like fishes out of water or as if they were lost in a maze.

"inner queen" (2010); water color on paper, 122x80cm, copyright © Masae KARIYA, courtesy of Gallery Terra Tokyo

Incidentally, it is doubtful whether the animals depicted in the exhibits viewed in this exhibition, “Twins in the labyrinth,” were drawn based on real “twins” or not.*1 Generally, we do not usually use the term “twins” for babies of viviparous animals, even when two babies are born from one mother at the same time. For example, when dogs and cats have a number of babies at a time, we often recognize their babies not as twins, triplets or quintuplets, but as brothers or sisters. In this sense, it seems unusual for us to deem babies of animals as “twins” consciously, since there is little understanding of considering them twins. Nevertheless, the pairs of animals in Kariya’s paintings seem to have been drawn with the aim of highlighting the peculiarity of “twins” by having been depicted as if they fit in improper situations. In other words, the animals which Kariya has drawn in her paintings shown in this exhibition are living in a maze, while also having their special birth as twins.
     We often hear about the peculiarity and mysteriousness of twins. It is said that twins sometimes learn languages more slowly than others in their childhood. I have heard that this is because of the existence of “secret words” which can be understood only between themselves. If such language communication exists between twins, it can be said that twins must own relationships and ways of thinking required for establishing languages which can be communicated only between two people. If so, such “secret words” may also be found in Kariya’s paintings displayed in this exhibition. There are two animals which are definitely not the same in spite of their similarities. In contrast to their similar appearance, they are different in their thoughts and feelings. People who expect to find common characteristics and mysterious sensitivities in the feelings and acts of twins tend to presume that identical twins must share the same appearance and feelings. However, as contrasted to the “similarity” in their physical appearance, twins have different individualities which cannot be integrated. Needless to say, twins are not a pair of the same people. Each of them is one individual and they are different from each other. This may be applicable to our perspective on artworks.
     Aesthetic judgment of paintings would be based on how realistically they were drawn. The more realistically pictures are depicted, the more highly they tend to be valued. Despite this, just as twins have different personalities and feelings though they are similar in appearance, there are differences in atmosphere and space between paintings and the real world. For instance, landscape paintings which were drawn based on real scenery are not completely the same as the real landscapes. This is because the real world and the world of paintings are actually two different things however realistically the paintings are drawn.
     Kariya also seems to attempt to express an invisible maze (another space) by consciously drawing these pairs of animals, which are visually similar to each other, against the background of public spaces. Through the pairs of animals depicted in a maze in which there seems to be no flow of time, viewers may hear “secret words” being exchanged between the pairs of animals. At that time, something born inside the viewers will create memories of these “twin” paintings which, as with relationships between twins in the real world, look similar to those drawn in Kariya’s original paintings but actually are different from them.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

In this article, “twins” refers to identical twins.
Last Updated on November 02 2015

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