TOKYO: Ask Japanese artist Ryu Itadani what he enjoys painting and his answer complements his style beautifully: “I only paint things that I like, so I guess that means everything I paint is my favorite thing to paint.”
His likes are diverse — he paints everything from landscapes, to boats and trains, to everyday objects such as water bottles and toothpaste tubes. Despite the relative normalcy of his subjects, or maybe because of it, Itadani has made a name for himself in the art world.
Born in Osaka in 1974, Itadani has lived in Toronto, London, Tokyo, and Berlin, which is his current city of residence. His art style has been described as “vibrant” and “sophisticated minimalist.” His works have been featured in the likes of Vogue Japan and Monocle and hang in Lexus outlets in Dubai and New York.
Dressed in a nondescript t-shirt and blazer, the artist took us on a guided tour of his latest exhibition, “Enjoy the View,” hosted at the Pola Museum Annex in Tokyo.
The artworks vary in subject: Cityscapes in vivacious, glowing colors; close-ups of still life objects on funky-looking tables, Itadani’s signature solitary objects, or “things he likes,” and minimalistic, yet elegant illustrations of flora and greenery to round things off.
His cityscapes all have one thing in common — a vibrant, bright blue sky. “I lived in London,” he said. “London has a very grey, very dark sky. So, in my paintings, I think the sky should be a nice, clear blue.”
Itadani loves contrasting colors and is known to create a scintillating rainbow effect in his work. “I have two moods when I paint. The first is, if you see my paintings, every color should be different. In the second mood, if I paint the same color, that’s okay, but I try not to paint the same colors next to each other. I love opposing colors.”
However, Itadani’s most well-known painting in the Middle East contains no color at all. Created for the Intersect by Lexus restaurant in Dubai, “LEXUS City” is a black-and-white depiction of a futuristic city commissioned by the brand. The artwork contains more than a few familiar buildings in the region, most notably the Kingdom Tower and Al-Faisaliyah Center skyscraper in Riyadh.
Itadani has never been to the Middle East, but has expressed a keen desire to visit, especially after completing the painting. “I wish I could go. I’ve never been to Dubai, I’ve never been to (Saudi) Arabia. When I was commissioned to create the work, I searched on the internet and found those buildings to be so unique, so different from others. I was so fascinated by the look of them.”
Itadani also says he would love to be able to visit the Middle East’s deserts, to see the vast expanses of sand and the great hulking desert dunes. “I think they would be beautiful, to see the way the light comes off them, and the way they shift and move. I think I would like that.”