One of my all time heroines is undoubtedly Japanese artist Aya Takano. Thirtysomething Takano lives and works in Japan as a painter and illustrator, manga artist, and science fiction essayist. Influenced by her bookworm-ish childhood — during which she spent her days reading dreamy works of sci-fi and looking at the menagerie of bizarre fauna in the animal kingdom — her work is a culmination of concrete modernity and the visceral world of nature. Her work also delves deep into female sexuality and experience, exploring feminine desire in a raw and internal manner. Her girlish, childlike, long-limbed characters are androgynous in a suspended state of adolescence — their extremities glowing red in growth. They are not children, but not quite women. They float in their uncanny, surrealist landscape, perpetually in a state of transition. They are transcendental goddesses.
Her characters are definitely sensual in their Eve-like nakedness, unapologetic of their exposure, alluring with their siren's eyes — but their sexuality is in no way aggressive like the mainstream representation of sexualized women. Aya Takano compares the ecstatic feeling of inspiration, when connecting with a piece of artistic work as a kind of "orgasm," and in a way, these sexually ambiguous women personify this.
As well as being a ridiculously talented storyteller of images, Takano is also, IMO, a beautiful and stylish lady. I would call her visually introverted — her exquisite visual language being expressed quietly through her art, rather than worn to adorn her body — but the neutral and comfortable pieces she is photographed in do have slouchy, sartorial merit.
I am such a fan of oversized clothing — roomy shapes in tactile fabrics. In fact, I would float around the world in huge, beautiful pajamas if it were more socially acceptable. Aya Takano wears monochrome, relaxed garms in a simple but stylish way that I think almost accentuates the colorful and intricate world of her paintings. Her lack of ostentatiousness in her clothing shines more of a spotlight on the fruits of her artistry.So come with me on a journey through Takano's minimalistic wardrobe, and see if you might be inspired by her simplicity...
The Salt And Pepper Oversized Knit
"When I begin a painting I see everything in my mind. I'm watching a picture, like a photograph. I'm just sketching what I'm watching in my mind."
Easy Sweater, $56, americanapparel.net
I love this salt and pepper knit worn by Aya Takano at a gallery opening. It's casual without looking lazy. Copy her laid back look in this cozy jumper by American Apparel. It's perfect for this transitional weather!
The Oversized Jersey Dress
"Science fiction made me realize there is an existence beyond reality, something that transcends my existence. It's made me discover a really strong feeling, like excitement... I feel transported by these stories. Before having a sexual relationship, I thought that what I was experiencing was an orgasm, but I realized after that it was something different. The 'orgasm' that I felt with science fiction was almost much stronger than I felt physically. All these sensations that I get from science fiction, I put them in my paintings. I wanna fly, I wanna fly to the universe. I don't wanna be imprisoned by morality, I want to live in my paintings."
Nor Dress, $31, monki.com
Candice Dress, $46, monki.com
Perfect for the inner artist in all of us, an oversized t-shirt dress or smock, is ideal for spending the day getting creative in your studio or slouching about town alike. With its anti-fit, boyfriend feel, these dresses are the perfect go-to item. You can even dress these simple pieces up for a night out with a slick of lipstick and some sky-high heels.
The Animal Face Tee
"I really like to integrate different types of animals [in my work], like animals with weird shapes. When I observe these strange creatures in books, I'm very surprised because reality goes beyond my imagination."
Owl Print Tee, $18, This slouchy tee is perfect for day or night — buy it a few sizes too big and wear it as a dress! The owl print is playful with a hint of darkness, casual effortlessness at its best. Who says you have to get glam to get noticed?
The Monochrome Tee And Short Skirt
"I'm not sad to say goodbye to a painting, because I know from the start it will belong to someone else."
Handpainted Moon And Eye T-Shirt, $36,
Jersey Skater Skirt, $26,
Lena Dunham Birthday Suit Tee, $55, I love Aya Takano's layering of too-big monochrome t-shirts with short, flippy skirts — it's the perfect daytime outfit for getting out and getting shit done (whilst still looking cute). Keep your tee simple with black and white line drawings. Look out for indie illustrators and scour the Internet for their Etsy stores or websites. Pair with a simple black skater skirt and opaque tights, and get out into the spring air to start exploring.
The Future Distilled Eau De Parfum, $80, "I cannot talk about universal pleasure, I can only talk about the pleasure i know as a woman. I cannot talk about the pleasure a man feels. I don't want to lie and pretend to know what men feel. But, perhaps a man who has a feminine sensibility can understand a woman's pleasure."The first fragrance from Nooka, a company famous for producing furturistic watches, this refined and subtle androgynous scent captures the dreamlike world of Aya Takano's paintings to a tea. This light and linear fragrance is slightly metallic with top notes of pink pepper, Japanese yuzu, and vintage leather, that fade into an unusual accord of gloss paper fused with tonka and coriander, before drying down to a combination of musk, pink sand, and cypress bark.Altogether unusual, conjuring pretty, otherworldly, and science fiction-inspired daydreams, this kooky scent captures Aya Takano's dreamscapes perfectly.
The Hair And Makeup
"I was inspired by a French illustrator called George Barbier, who would color in red the extremities of his character's body parts. I could also say the redness accentuates the effect of a body not altogether finished, and still growing or in development."
The Saem Gem Miracle O2 CC Cream With SPF50, $15, Aya Takano is rarely pictured wearing much more than a flick of eyeliner, but what I notice most about her natural beauty is the glow of her perfect skin. Whether she is naturally blessed with such youthful dewy skin, I do not know. What I do know, however, is that there are some seriously amazing skincare and makeup products coming out of Korea right now, known for creating this very flawless look.CC or Color Correct creams are big in the world of Korean cosmetics and starting to break into the Western market, due to their miracle-like effects. CC creams are moisturizing, sun protecting, and work as a tinted primer, which helps to even out skin tone.Rated number one CC cream on Korea Depart, Seam Gem Miracle O2 CC Cream comes in three shades and even has SPF 50! Get me some now!!
Lee Stafford Professional Iron Mist, $12, boots.com
Aya Takano's hair is super shiny and straight. Always styled with blunt, long bangs in a long bob, it's the perfect minimalist hairstyle. To achieve similarly smooth locks, try some Lee Stafford heat protection spray pre straightening iron. Not only does it come in wickedly hot pink packaging, but it helps to keep your hair in top notch condition whilst being heat styled. So crack the spine on your science fiction graphic novel, and absorb some inspirational vibes á la Aya whilst listening to this...
"I really like Yoyoi Kusama, the first time I saw her work it was like seeing the universe — dark, white spots — I fell in love with her art. Since then I've been a very big fan of hers. When I look at her work I don't think, it's not an interaction with the mind, but my whole body responding to her paintings. I have a physical relationship to Kusama's work."
This is one of my very favorite tunes and reminds me of one of my very favorite heroines. Four Tet's meditative, music box melody calls to mind industrial future other-worlds where sylphs and animal spirits reside. Close your eyes and drift off...