Start Here: Kiyooka, Nakamura, Takashima, Tanabe
Takao Tanabe, Forest Impressions #8, 1953, watercolour. Gift the Artist.AGGV 2004.031.001.

Start Here: Kiyooka, Nakamura, Takashima, Tanabe

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, BC - To Jan 22, 2023

by Michael Turner

It is only in the last decade that a group exhibition focused on the work of Roy Kiyooka, Kazuo Nakamura, Shizuye Takashima and Takao Tanabe could be expected from our public galleries and museums. As guest curator Bryce Kanbara notes, “These four artists, geographically separated and largely unaware of each other, fostered distinctly different practices.” In the past, geographical proximity and common practices were default criteria for inclusion, when “formal” concerns, not “social” imperatives, were hallmarks of modern exhibition-making. But times change. As they always do.

In describing Start Here as an “introduction to the work and importance” of these four artists, Kanbara is inviting those unfamiliar with them to view their work for the first time, and those familiar to see it with new eyes. All four of these second-generation Japanese Canadians (Nisei) were born in the 1920s; all found their own way into art making and endured racism through daily interactions and monumental events, such as the Canadian government’s expropriations and relocations that followed from Imperial Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Coincident with the opening of Start Here was Gei, a city-wide artists symposium organized by the National Association of Japanese Canadians, in collaboration with the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives at UVic and with funding from the Canada Council. Over three days, 100 Japanese Canadian artists converged at the recently restored pavilion at Esquimalt’s Gorge Park, site of the former Takata family tea house, which the Takatas were forced to abandon in 1941 when they were sent to internment camps. Those who missed the symposium in real time may visit

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