The triptych "The Age of Oil" by Akane Takayama speaks to us about our moment in history and invites consideration of the future we are creating. Oil is the fundamental unit of our civilisation today; we fight and kill to possess its rich ooze, we build our lives on its malleability and we struggle to see a future for humanity without its powerful presence. Oil shapes us as much as we shape it.
Takayama's triptych understands not only the history of oil but also its underlying essence in all we do; including art. In creating her work in heavy dark moulded plastic she creates a state of fossilisation of form which directly echoes the history of oil in nature. The works themselves hold a sense of brooding epochs, a heavy iconic capture of moments in time.
In the first part of the triptych the form holds a powerful antediluvian quality. Could this be the head of an amphibian crawling from the slime or is there an insect we can see here? In these suggestions of prehistoric animal forms, present when the trees and plants laid down their flesh for compaction into carbon reserves, we are already under the influence of the artist's deceptive touch.
Within the sculpture "Past" an egg shape is indented with strong groves, incised with a gulley, impacted with lensing ovals; this is not a living animal at all, this is a sculpted boulder of plastic. A plastic which had genesis deep below the land on which we tread today, a plastic drawn from the well of that carboniferous past, processed, formed, melted, re-formed and shaped into Takayama's vision. You look at it, you think you recognise it in some way but the more you look the more you realise that all association is ephemeral and fleeting rather than heavy and embedded.
From this ancient past Takayama then marks a journey to the uncertain future with a totemic sculpture standing for us in our present. The contraversy of oil and the environment is fixed permanently into our minds by this vision of a fish rising. This is not the ecosphere covered in oil this is a world permeated by the thick sludge of human manufacture. Yet once again Takayama has produced a subtle form that takes the oil base of its nature and shapes a transcendent vision in which creativity eludes disaster.
As we once more look again at this creative force we can see that there is no fish except the one we project. From the egg form of the Past we now find the phallic form of the present, again trammeled with grooves and sliced with a gulley. The lensing ovals work as the keystone of connection which allows the viewer a perception pathway along the history. Fluid oil as plastic encasing the present before our eyes.
Out of this timeline the artist forms the future and shows a vision of the unknown. As with the illusion of a reconisable past and the mirage of the present, Takayama creates the unknowable and provides it with a strange power of sub-conscious magnetism. Do we see a space craft, is there some strange transport awaiting our discovery? Even though such forms are not stated we yet again project our own comfortable recognition on that which can never be certain; the future. The Age of Oil is the TAO, the principle behind the true nature of our world, the human world. A carbon reality of life and death, the cycle and recycle, laid down, extracted, reformed, our nature refined into the power behind human civilisation. In Takayama's sculpture we see the deep dark of oil formed in thick, heavy, black plastic capturing moments of movement : past, present, future. Forms that evoke a fundamental primitive relationship which is instantly recognisable and yet always alien. In these juxtapositions the sculptor's subtle thought slips past our psychological defences leaving questions in our memory
The Japanese artist Akane Takayama has recently been shortlisted for the UK-Japan ADF Award with her triptych "The Age of Oil". After having spent most of the year installing her DOG Sculpture across London with great success, Takayama finds herself once more back with a gallery piece as the judges selected "The Age of Oil: Present" for their exhibition at the ROA Gallery in Pall Mall click on image to enlarge