The Curved World of Sho Takahashi
It is well known that Picasso and Braque were propelled towards cubism by the
dominating influence of a sinister figure, Le Mathematicien
early academic drop out, with whom they shared a garret.
Since then, the direct influence of mathematics has been disappointing.
Mondrian could not escape from orthogonality, Malevich’s squares were hardly
an innovation, and Kandinsky, who considered that the impact of a triangle on
a circle was
“no less powerful than the finger of God touching the
finger of Adam in Michelangelo”
had scarcely opened Euclid.
Now in the mature work of Sho Takahashi, we begin to see the power of
mathematics to revolutionise art and to introduce the third, fourth and still
higher dimensions. The mere idea of surface is extended and generalised.
Born in the year of the atomic bomb, Takahashi became a disaffected social
science student in Tokyo University. In the heady days of the revolt of
1969, he threw petrol bombs while shouting the slogan “pulverise, pulverise”.
Sought by the police, he was sheltered by a cosmologist who taught him about
the new geometry of strings, black holes and curved multi-dimensional spaces.
This underground double life still marks his thought.
Thus, Takahashi’s own work is redolent of the new cosmology of string theory
and most powerfully embodies the paradigm of escape via a wormhole from one
universe to a parallel universe. For almost the first time we begin to see the
impact on representational, or at least on non-objective art, of adult science
and not just of the first pages of school geometry so lauded in the past.
Takahashi now lives, appropriately, in the science city of Tsukuba in Japan,
where he patrols the frontiers of science, but he stays in touch with the
revolutionary student movement. Thus still inhabiting parallel worlds,
he may occasionally be seen on King’s Parade in Cambridge but simultaneously
he remains an amphibian descendant of the Floating World of Japan, since the
eddies, vortices and waves of his Japanese background still exert a powerful
unconscious influence on his pictures although now generated by mathematics
rather than driven by folk-lore and fashion.