looking in / looking out

until July 29 at General Fine Craft, Almonte

This excellent exhibition illustrates the connections that two different artists have to Japan. Using painting and ceramics, they explore familiar iconography and aesthetics of this ancient and most distinctive culture.


In 2013, Norman Takeuchi wrote:

“The duality of being Japanese-Canadian is at the heart of my work. As a member of a community that experienced the upheaval of the internment years, the art reflects conflicting views: the earlier difficulties of acknowledging my Japanese heritage and the eventual acceptance of it. The fusion of dissonant abstract forms with painted reproductions of Japanese woodblock prints, Noh theatre masks and other motifs from old – and modern – Japan hint at an uneasy search for harmony and balance between two worlds. Ultimately though, the paintings are a celebration of a dual heritage and of having learned to embrace the blended beauty of two cultures.”

Takeuchi’s paintings dynamically express and reclaim his Japanese-Canadian heritage using dynamic compositions, iconic imagery and swirling abstractions. His most recent series of canvases are exceptional representations of his mature style, a genre all its own in the story of art-making in Canada.

His process starts with small collaged sketches of fragmented imagery. He transfers them to large-scale acrylic paintings where their meanings are amplified. For example, several paintings depict Mount Fuji and Peggy’s Cove glimpsed between randomly-shaped fields of colour and pattern. They suggest our innate need for recognizable imagery – symbols that represent cultural identity – in a world of contrasting ideologies.  But there is also playfulness in these compositions, showing the artist’s more relaxed approach to his work in recent years.


The curved, gestural forms and softly coloured surfaces of Janet Keefe’s Ikebana-inspired pots make them distinctly recognizable. Using a coil-building technique, she is able to achieve gesture, tension and subtlety in vessels with expressive shapes that often seem to defy the realm of possibility.

Carefully attaching together coils and slabs of clay is her preferred way of constructing pots. She says, “It facilitates the slow building of each piece and allows the forms to swell and grow, often asymmetrically.”  Using sinuous line to delineate and emphasize movement and transitions, she thoughtfully develops relationships between the exterior and interior of each piece.

Janet has exhibited and taught ceramics in eastern Canada since 1982. At the same time she raised a family, worked as an Occupational Therapist and studied Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement). She uses Ikebana (Sogetsu School) main principles in her work: emphasis on line, mass and negative space.

The forms, colours and textures of her pots are also influenced by the quiet countryside, plants, rocks, trees and birds which surround her home/studio. By her hands, these singular pieces become beautiful and compelling entities with personalities derived from her location in the world, her knowledge of clay and her own life experience.


This exhibition continues until July 29.

General Fine Craft (63 Mill St., Almonte) is open Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm and Sunday 11-4.