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Shinro Ohtake Biography

Shinro Ohtake is one of Japan's leading contemporary artists, with a multi-disciplinary practice that ranges across drawing, collage, sculptural assemblage, sound, and architecture.

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The artist's experimental approach to artmaking is best encapsulated by his heavily collaged scrapbooks. Drawn from the debris of everyday life, they use found material to explore the impact of contemporary visual culture on the way experience is shaped, recorded and remembered.

Shinro Ohtake travelled to London at the height of punk in the late 1970s, where he encountered the movement's experimental ethos and influence throughout diverse areas of cultural expression that formed the foundation of his practice. The artist has also cited 20th century art movements Dada, Surrealism, and Pop Art as having been influential on his work, as well as the British painter David Hockney.

Shinro Ohtake began producing his scrapbooks in 1977, compiling them from materials collected along his daily experience. Viewed as a 'field for experimentation', as the artist said in his 2016 interview with Ocula Magazine, the scrapbooks trouble the distinction between painting, craft, and sculpture by combining material such as ticket stubs, maps, and posters with hand-painted elements.

Referring to his travels, dreams, and personal experience, the scrapbooks befit Ohtake's preoccupation with cultural ephemera as a form of self-documentation. In his work, using collected materials to form a personal narrative, the layers of the collage act as maps of memory and time.

This diaristic approach to assemblage extends to his more formally sculptural practice. Mon Cheri: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed (2012), exhibited at dOCUMENTA 13, explicitly employs sculpture and collage as a form of self-portraiture. The multimedia assemblage, located within a prefabricated shed, is a disorienting mix of paper material, objects, and sound, speaking to the intense physical and temporal experience of contemporary visual culture and its relationship to identity formation.

Shinro Ohtake's broad material practice and disregard for disciplinary divides also informed his architectural project on the Japanese island of Naoshima. Completed in 2009, the I Love Yu Bath House is a functional public bathhouse that combines architectural pastiche, sculpture, and collaged images, including a collage of erotica lining the tiles of the bath. Staged within the traditionally communal space of a bathhouse, Ohtake's work represents popular culture as a space of collective memory that, much like the visual fragmentation of the structure's stylistic elements, is both multi-layered and constantly shifting.

Shinro Ohtake has held mid-career retrospective exhibitions including Shinro Ohtake Zen-Kei: Retrospective 1955–2006 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2006), and Ohtake Shinro: New Universe on the Road at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Fukuoka Art Museum (2007). His work was featured in the 8th Gwangju Biennale (2010) and a selection of his scrapbooks was shown in the group exhibition Encyclopaedia Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

In addition to visual arts, Ohtake is also known for his contributions to Japan's experimental music scene with his noise band JUKE/19.

Alena Kavaka | Ocula | 2021

Shinro Ohtake
featured artworks

MON CHERI: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed 親愛的:廢置棚子的自畫像 by Shinro Ohtake contemporary artwork installation
Shinro Ohtake MON CHERI: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed 親愛的:廢置棚子的自畫像, 2012 Mixed media, timber, electronics, sound, steam
Tai Kwun Contemporary
OPIUM POPPY 18 / Two Flowers by Shinro Ohtake contemporary artwork mixed media
Shinro Ohtake OPIUM POPPY 18 / Two Flowers, 2011 Oil, charcoal, dye, printed matter, hemp cloth, cheesecloth, paper, cast-coated paper, newspaper, wrapping paper, thin paper and cardboard in custom frame
40 x 31 x 21.5 cm
Para Site
Time Memory 18 by Shinro Ohtake contemporary artwork mixed media
Shinro Ohtake Time Memory 18, 2013 Oil, ink, printed matter, rice paper, wrapping paper, paper, brown paper and cardboard
100 x 70 cm
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Shinro Ohtake
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