At the junction between light and nothingness, the monsters of Shin Taga 飛来 dance. Who are they ? What do they want? What are they trying to tell us? Faced with these unfathomable creatures, our minds vibrate differently. One would swear, from the silence of the images, to hear their slow breaths and their muffled voices perspire: they call to us. Gothic, minimalist, erotic, with multiple pop references, the finely sketched illustrations of Japanese artist Shin Taga support some heavy mysteries in their complex flesh. Which ? Irruption in a kingdom of wandering in chiaroscuro.

Shin taga

At once, the charm operates. That kind of magic that cools the air and makes you dizzy. Caught by the seductive strangeness that emerges from these Japanese prints of a genre unknown to the West, the viewer discovering Shin Taga introduces a new planet: as inhospitable as it is unspeakably familiar, resembling. This is the unbearable ambiguity that his art inspires, like a Beksinski.

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Shin Taga is a Japanese artist born in 1946. And although his paintings are frequently relayed and enjoy a certain notoriety, the author is as discreet as the origin of his monsters. And what monsters! Fascinating characters: anatomies with hundred faces, cannibalistic and therianthropic fish, elegant witches, tormented looks, deconstructed bodies and erotic twists form a world as delicate as it is intense. So what is the secret of this disturbing hypnosis to which Taga-san’s chimeras make us succumb?

The art of painting fear

Discovering Shin Taga is asking yourself this frightening question: could it be that this sunless world was born from ours? That the dark areas of our dimension shelter a world teeming with powerful deformities is an idea as sinister as it is shared by Japanese tradition. Kamis, Yokai, spirits, deceased and deities, always between death and pleasure, between supernatural and symbolic, have lived alongside the Japanese since the dawn of time. The artist explores precisely this double fear that we maintain to really discern, one day, in our abyssal shadows an unspeakable beyond and that this one turns out to be, in reality, our own reflection, distorted.

This latent possibility is much more frightening than an effective coexistence and Shin Taga in play : nothing confirms that the lives he draws share our space, but our space is nonetheless found in their world, in decor. So where did we fall? Where are they if they belong to our world? Do they creep in without being seen in our daily lives or have they imitated our material and our landscapes in an elsewhere? Through his paintings, Shin Taga finally lets us observe them, them who quiver and slip between our bodies at the same time as us, but not in the same light

Print, Shin Taga, 1977

For exacerbate this common terror of the unknown and the night, the painter silently reveals a few faces from the murky waters of our fantasies. They are sometimes known silhouettes, like those of the witch, hybrids or aliens. But other times the tracks are blurred : masks, anatomical decomposition, mechanisms, evaporation of features and illusions combine to make a still unthinkable reality. It should come as no surprise to learn that many of the artist’s illustrations were used on the covers of the Japanese horror writer’s books, Edogawa Ranpo, name borrowed from Edgar Allan Poe of whom he was a fervent admirer.

The hundred faces of the witch

Endlessly revisited, the figures of ancient legends appear here each time embalmed with the same chilling serenity. The witch – this woman steeped in mystery and magic, solitary and independent – is now an elegant lady, with extravagant adornments, sometimes naked, hair in the wind, accessible in appearance. A common point ? The gazes, piercing or peaceful, are always precise, obvious and sure. Whether primed, natural and intimate or the body raw: the witch of Shin Taga feels a strong presence. It is there, waterproof, inseparable from the space-time that it has chosen. This fatality of the moment, posture and mystical existence, this is what floods all the work of the Japanese artist. His world, whether our close relative or a distant foreign place, is rooted in painting, unchanging.

Those others who are us: the aliens.

Two other characters embody this disturbing imperturbability. They are face to face, in profile: graceful figures of a permanent and peaceful introspection. According to the codes of science fiction, it is about alien faces (or the same who looks at himself): antennae, stretched eyes, protruding brain, futuristic clothing style, levitating halo, meditation,… And above this unfathomable and symmetrical communication? A hypnotic perspective in checkerboard, cherubs and rings who fall. Lower, uncertain waters. The whole is as enigmatic as it is striking: it is because it is atmospheres, atmospheres, of dreams. There is nothing to understand, everything to be felt, as if in deep sleep.

Souheki (Twin Wall), 1982, Taga Shin

Tell another story …

The draftsman’s tour de force, it is perhaps ultimately to invoke, as in a dream, characters from old tales already rich in a thousand and one stories so as not to tell anything more about them: they are right in front of us, in their natural habitat, as they are in the world. Also Shin Taga not only creates fantastic scenes, but captures the timelessness of postures, looks, moods and fears. Via the immobility of the protagonists, engraved in the canvas by a refined line borrowed from the tradition of prints, and by the disinterested consent of the specters to be contemplated for what they are, the importance of the moment crosses time.

Dream, Taga Shin

In short, made of the matter of men, but not of their standards, the interweaving that form the creatures of Shin Taga transcend the limits of the body. In the depths of their appearances, where pain and pleasure lie, we perceive infinite abysses. Again, the perspectives fit together and generate deep anxiety. We’re only on the edge of a much bigger cosmos, they tell us.

Evolve between penumbra and moonlight

Shin taga

If the characters of Shin Taga are intriguing and imbue the paintings with their moods, the landscapes who welcome them are just as important. So, once our eye gets used to faces, it suddenly becomes aware of the night. Because the main setting is her at night. An eternal night, outside of time and space, hidden in silence, barely lit by a faint supernatural light.

But to offer so much expression to the shadows, a very particular artistic method was needed for the artist, one that allowed a degree of detail below the millimeter bar. Shin Taga realizes his works in mirror by engraving them on copper plates, then printed on prints. Thin copper plates that can sometimes reach large sizes in order to further maximize the level of precision of the works. His genius lies in being able to achieve very precise shadow and haze effects that magically appear in print without resorting to chemical processes. The very process is genius.

This dreamlike night, the spectator owes it in particular to mastery of black and white by Shin Taga. The contrasts are absorbing, precise. The textures are endless. But this is not the only talent of the Japanese designer: behind the simplicity of black ink and sometimes minimalist representations, hides a subtle knowledge of anatomy, quasi-medical, which allows him to modify any aspect or highlight others. So, thanks to all these keen senses of detail, the artist is able to create several zones and layers of readings, even in the twilight.

This wealth of nothingness, this is what ultimately makes these unthinkable worlds so believable : we would almost touch them with our fingers. But no one will take us there, paralyzed by the sweet and voluptuous terror that emanates from these works …

– Sharon Houri


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