Ay-O: Nijitsukai

Ay-O: Nijitsukai
Ay-O: Nijitsukai installation view
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Ay-O: Nijitsukai
20th June, 2024 – 10th August, 2024
Whitestone Gallery
7-8/F, H Queen’s
80 Queen’s Road
Central Hong Kong

Whitestone Gallery is thrilled to present Ay-O: Nijitsukai, a solo exhibition showcasing works by esteemed Japanese artist Ay-O. With a career spanning over six decades, Ay-O has established himself as a pioneering force in the art world, known for his dynamic and multi-sensory approach to art. The artist coined the term “”Nijitsukai“” (虹使い), which means “”rainbow-charming”” in Japanese, inspired by the term “snake-charming”(蛇使い). This exhibition invites viewers to step into Ay-O’s vibrant, energetic world and be captivated by his masterful command of colour.

Takao Iijima, better known by his artist name Ay-O, was born in Ibaraki prefecture in 1931. After he graduated from the Tokyo University of Education, Ay-O made a splash in Japan’s art scene as part of the Demokrato Artists Association in the 1950s. Demokrato was an innovative group led by the surrealist artist Ei-Q to promote independence in the creation of art, it was a place without judgment or hierarchy where Ay-O could create freely. In 1958, Ay-O moved to New York, where he met the important figures of the Fluxus movement, such as the leader George Maciunas, Yoko Ono, and Nam June Paik. He collaborated with artists from various creative fields including painters, musicians, composers, writers and dancers to break the barriers between different mediums of art.

Departing from conventional artistic practice, Ay-O discarded artificial lines in his creation and came up with the idea of using all the colors at once. He started making visual experimental works covering everything around him in rainbow colors, culminating in the creation of his renowned ‘rainbow’ pieces, which propelled him to international recognition and earned him worldwide fame as well as the nickname ‘Rainbow Artist’, following his exhibition at 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966.

Ay-O: Nijitsukai

In the 1960s, he began producing prints with two trusted printers Tokuzo Okabe and Kenryo Sukeda. According to the artist, “Back then, print was belittled as ‘Hanga’ (half-picture) and looked down upon as inferior to oil painting.” However, he believes that painters and printers hold equal standing as art creators. In 1970, he won the Tokyo prize of the 7th Tokyo International Print Biennale with ‘Rainbow Hokusai.’ Through his lively and energetic printmaking, Ay-O cemented his legacy as a pioneering artist who challenged the traditional hierarchies within the art world.

Having recently completed successful shows at prestigious institutions such as The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art and M+ Museum Hong Kong, Ay-O’s work continues to captivate audiences worldwide. The rainbow prints, in particular, showcase a unique blend of whimsy and technical mastery, offering viewers a kaleidoscopic glimpse into his imaginative world.

Ay-O: Nijitsukai opens on the 20th of June until the 10th of August, 2024 at Whitestone Gallery

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