Norman Takeuchi, Meeting Place, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 76.2 x 91.4 cm. Private Collection of Alana Kainz. Photo credit: Justin Wonnacott.
OTTAWA — From Apr. 1 to Aug. 27, 2023, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) is hosting a major retrospective of artist Norman Takeuchi’s paintings, drawings, and graphic design work… and you are all invited. Shapes in Between, the OAG’s summer marquee exhibition, is a celebration of six decades—and counting—of Takeuchi’s creative life.
Takeuchi was born in Vancouver in 1937. In 1942, he, his two brothers, and their parents were forcibly dispersed to the tiny settlement of Westwold in the B.C. Interior.
After graduating from the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design) in 1961, he spent a year in London, England, to concentrate on painting. In 1963, he moved to Ottawa to pursue a career as an exhibition and graphic designer (Expo 67, Expo 70, and the Canadian Museum of Nature).
Between expos, he interrupted his design career for another year to paint in London. In the mid-90s, he decided to devote himself full-time to art. He is deeply indebted to his wife Marion for her invaluable support as administrator, archivist, and “occasional gentle critic.”
You may already have seen works by Takeuchi where you live. In addition to more than 50 shows in the Ottawa region, he has participated in group exhibitions in Kingston and Toronto, including Being Japanese Canadian: reflections of a broken world at the Royal Ontario Museum and Blended with Miya Turnbull at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, both in 2019. His installation, A Measured Act—a meditation on the treatment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War—travelled to Calgary, Comox, Burnaby, Leaf Rapids (four hours northwest of Thompson, MB), and Fredericksburg, TX.
And if you happened to be in Vancouver in the summer of 2007, no doubt you will remember his street banners comprising bold and bright kimono designs overlaid with sober, black-and-white Japanese Canadian historical images. Eight hundred of these banners flew over the Burrard and Cambie Bridges and adorned the lampposts on many Vancouver streets. You might even own a set, as the City of Vancouver later donated them to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre for fundraising purposes.
However, the forthcoming retrospective at the OAG in Ottawa reaches well beyond Takeuchi’s works depicting Japanese and Japanese Canadian cultural references.
Shapes in Between features some 85 pieces covering a wide array of themes (Abstraction, Conflict, Graphic Art, Still Life) and media (paint, ink, graphite, pastel, Conté crayon). His meticulously kept sketchbooks and scrapbooks provide a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process that underpins his signature collage compositions. One of my favourite pieces is Omingmak, a striking silkscreen print of muskoxen from Takeuchi’s time at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Nearby in the gallery, a display case shows a sampling of the preliminary sketches together with a tracing-paper overlay of corrections and notations by one of the museum’s biologists.
The OAG is Ottawa’s second largest art gallery after the National Gallery. Located at 10 Daly Ave., the 35-year-old OAG moved into its modern, purpose-built six-story building in 2018. Worth a visit at any time, the OAG is a particularly compelling destination this upcoming season. If you have been contemplating a trip to Ottawa, now is your chance to explore the region and take in the not-to-be-missed exhibition exploring a lifetime of art by an important Nikkei artist.
To learn more about Norman Takeuchi’s retrospective exhibition, Shapes in Between, at the Ottawa Art Gallery, visit www.oaggao.ca/whats-on/exhibitions/shapes-in-between-norman-takeuchi/.
Sachiko Okuda is a member of the curatorial team for Shapes in Between. The other co-curators are the OAG’s Chief Curator Catherine Sinclair and Hamilton-based artist and curator Bryce Kanbara.