Hirabayashi Takahiro’s “Trail of Souls” Explores This World and the Next

by Somayra IsmailjeePosted on

Japanese artist Hirabayashi Takahiro, featured here on our blog, brought his work to the United States for the first time, with a solo show that opened on Saturday night at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. “Trail of Souls” is an inspired exploration of “this world” and the “next world” present in traditional Japanese belief systems.

Takahiro’s muse is aesthetically derived from fairytale characters (such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) and kugutsu puppets of Japanese theatre, while finding spiritual roots in Buddhism. These elements combine to create the young maidens featured in his paintings, manifesting as contemplative young women who must journey through both worlds in order to find lost souls. Takahiro states their youth also reflects a notion of symbolic boundaries, much like the symbolic boundary between each world, saying “I want to express the boundary between the young girl and the woman she might grow up to be, as well as examine the symbol of the young girl in the context of folklore and tradition.”

These stories are carefully depicted through oil on panel paintings, capturing his maidens among natural and abundant scenery. Delicate attire, blossoming flowers, lotus leaves and miniature animals such as goats all appear, placing these landscapes at an intersection between Japanese folklore and contemporary surrealism. Takahiro notes, “I selected these animals to emphasize the strange atmosphere in my artworks. For instance, it is mysterious that big animals like elephants are small.”

The stone statues of Takahiro’s hometown, Nagano, provide another recurring motif in his body of work, dressing his maidens akin to the way these Bodhisattva statues are dressed. Placing them in natural surroundings among flowers and plants, Takahiro says, contribute to their representation as Jizō statues. “It is very important, because the stone statues are located in ordinary landscapes. So, in order to express a girl in picture like Jizo, I mainly paint small flowers and plants.”

Hirabayashi Takahiro’s “Trail of Souls” will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles through May 21st, 2016. Dislaimer: This exhibition is curated by our Online Editor, Caro.

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