TAKEO Paper Show “SUBTLE” was originally held in 2014 in Japan as part of the exhibition series that has been presented by the Japanese paper company, TAKEO, since 1966. It was brought to the newly opened “Japan House” in the heart of Hollywood, Los Angeles, to quietly but powerfully showcase the potential of “subtlety” in a way that will completely change your perception of what paper is really about.
The person behind this delicate design magic is an acclaimed graphic designer, Kenya Hara, who is known for his inspiring branding work for MUJI. He is the Art Director of the Japan House, an affiliate of the Foreign Ministry of Japan, established to disseminate Japanese aesthetics based in Los Angeles, London and San Paolo. Hara has been working with Takeo for long time as a graphic designer.
Before I visited the exhibit, I only had a very vague idea what to expect from a paper show titled “SUBTLE.” But once I was there, my body and senses immediately knew what it meant – as Hara must have envisioned.
It’s not the paper itself that is subtle, Hara explains. Rather, it is the way our senses are stirred and awoken by the delicate characteristics of paper that is really subtle. If we think twice, paper is extremely fine and fragile compared to other natural materials such as stone or wood. You can change its shape by just folding a corner with your fingertips. Or, because of its overwhelming whiteness, even a smallest smear will damage paper’s pureness forever.
Any of us can change the destiny of paper with one small move. But despite its casual nature, the changes made on it are irreversible. Be it long-lasting beauty or a damage that can never be corrected, it will stay as if you had pressed a branding iron on it. In that sense, paper is a unique and incomparable medium that records the subtlest actions as a decisive moment. It is this “once-in-a-lifetimeness” of paper that makes our senses aroused, focused and alert even toward the smallest and slightest moves.
Hara reminds us that it’s not the phenomena themselves that are “subtle.” Subtle or not, they exist and happen. It is our sensitivity, or our ability to perceive “subtle” things, that make subtle things subtle. – “Subtle” is on us, not on the side of the objects.
Reflecting such a philosophy, the creations you see at “SUBTLE” are focused on the characteristics of paper as a “catalyst” to stir our senses, not so much on leveraging paper as a material to make objects. None of them try to defy paper’s limitations and achieve overly complicated, large or excessive details that may make you exclaim: “Wow, is this made of paper!” Instead, they may look anti-climacitc. But that’s the point. In a world of “SUBTLE,” the climax is not on the side of the objects. It has to emerge INSIDE us when we fully activate and mobilize our own senses. “SUBTLE” is such a sensuous experience.
The “Creation” section showcased works by artists, designers and architects. Find how diverse and profound “subtlety” can be when it stirs creators’ inspiration.
The “Collection” section focuses how paper behaves and how the Japanese have been leveraging each behavior to create products and record the work of art.
The “PRODUCT” Section showcases some of TAKEO’s cutting edge products.