Alexa Hatanaka, Koinobori (eat rice, play with cats), 2021.
Sewn washi (Japanese paper): Haini kozo from Kakishi Seishi, miscellaneous washi from Japanese Paper Place, woodcut, linocut, sumi ink, oil-based ink, indigo dye, kakishibu dye, collected paper rice bags
Picture: LF Documentation.

side by each 2.0

Alexa Hatanaka

Artist talk

On the occasion of the closing of side by each 2.0 and Le Chiffonnier / The Ragpicker, AXENÉO7 artist-run centre invites you to a discussion with artists Alexa Hatanaka and Karen Kraven about their work on these exhibitions.

Following the discussion, the center will reopen at 7PM for a festive closing celebration.

Music by DJ Rodrigo Medrano

Free admission
Cash bar
Free parking

Book here

side by each: encountering spirit, etchings, and movement in the art of Alexa Hatanaka

Inks settle, seep, saturate beyond surface relations. 

Fibres collide, entwine, fashion into stronger molecular bonds. 

Experimentation in the mix of media, paint brush strokes evades the printmaker’s capture. 

Alexa Hatanaka’s material reality manifests the flows of her imaginary, where dream, memories, wish, grief, expectation, fracture, solace, and joy are interwoven, expressed through the making. Spirit resides in dutiful repetitions, suturing skill and intention.

Moving through side by each 2.0, in viewing artist Alexa Hatanaka’s pieces, the visitor is invited to regard the transformation of ideation, history, and emotion into practice. In the central circle, one can visualize the convergence of human and nonhuman in merriment and tragedy simultaneously. The annual celebration of koi-nobori awash here-now in the wake of the cataclysmic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, gives birth to new traditions, a dance which speaks to the transience of private emotions, family relations, and the very land beneath one’s feet. The visitor’s tentative shuffle in for a closer view generates the slightest breeze, hazmatic ripples inward and outward as hauntings, from groundswells the surges of body memory in the most unexpected gather. Loss gives way to laughter gives way to commemoration gives way to Grandmother knowledges, gives way, away, away, away, to draw near again. Shoganai, it cannot be helped, out loud in big block letters, serves as a captivated audience, a material witness to the dance ever unfolding and refolding, as paper is prone to be. Shoganai, better to go with the flow and move on.

Histories in the making merge through Hatanaka’s artistic reach. Her Japanese ancestry by way of intergenerational travels across this country called Canada facilitates the recognition of knowledge that had become otherwise politically askew. Among the inheritances from one generation to the next, bodily habits mimic and elongate possibilities for resolving errant pasts. At the same time, these spirit possessions contain the wisdom of the ages, discernable in the minutest of artistic valuations regarding the treatment of material, shape, hue, texture, and subject matter. Hatanaka’s prints betray these undeniable legacies, substantiated in seemingly impossible assemblages. How else would a young girl from Yokohama — before coming to be known as Alexa's Grandmother — walk amongst artists and teachers of traditional wood block printing in Nanjing, a location of devastating political tumult between Japanese and Chinese in a history of warfare that eschewed an even greater history of cultural exchange and transmission between these nations? 

Yet, Hatanaka’s works transcend indelible aesthetic and social reiterations of what has been, and what should have been. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures awaiting in any present moment is the element of surprise, the uncanny ability to diverge suddenly from the fulfillments of one’s intentional will, capacity, and visitations. The etchings in Hatanaka’s images are homages to new community formations, where laughter, tears, and creative spirits of Nunavut youth roll across and bind with the landscape, making days turn into months into years. In her pieces, 9.0 and 9.0 (hazmat has matte), histories, futures, and the immediate present collide into kaleidoscopic view. And you, dear visitor, have been called to witness, to dream up new realms of your choosing, to fuse your knowns with unknowns.

Press, pressing on, chokusetsu-hō, in life imbedded death and death into life. What is the printmaker’s solace if not uncovered through play, the successions of trial and error, and moments of utter astonishment that confidences of the heart can take shape and draw colour without accruing further harm? And what in the dressmaker’s embroider reveals stories otherwise left untold, ancestral incarcerations that dawn into unimagined kinships? In side by each, 2.0, Alexa Hatanaka fearlessly rejoins, not only for solitary alleviations of the soul but to bring into the surrounds a fabric of memories that offer quiet succor, vivid flashes of pigment, and uncanny resemblances, so that you too are emboldened to press on.

— Ayumi Goto

Alexa Hatanaka engages in time-intensive, historic processes connected to her Japanese heritage that support her thinking around community-building, environment, and persisting and honouring evolving cultural practices such as relief-printmaking, papermaking and kamiko, the practice of sewing garments out of konnyaku starch-strengthened washi (Japanese paper). She collaborates on site-specific and community-engaged projects with youth in Kinngait, Nunavut as part of her collective Kinngarni Katujjiqatigiit/ᑭᙵᕐᓂ ᑲᑐᔾᔨᖃᑎᒌᑦ and formerly as part of Embassy of Imagination (2014-2020). Her individually and collaboratively authored work has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the British Museum and Canada House in London; the Toronto Biennial of Art; and the Guanlan International Printmaking Base, Shenzen, China.

Ayumi Goto is a performance artist, currently based in T’karonto, traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Huron Wendat, Anishinaabe, and Missisaugas of the Credit. Ayumi often draws upon her Japanese heritage and language to creatively explore and critique nation-building, cultural belonging, and social conventions of goodness. Frequently collaborating, she investigates land-human interrelationality, impermanence, gender fluidities, and spatial-temporal play. She has performed in London, Berlin, Naha, Kyoto, Nuuk and across this land currently called Canada. Ayumi is an Adjunct Professor at OCADU while developing as a diasporic scholar. Mentors foundational to her thinking and practices include: Shirley Bear, Roy Miki, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Peter Morin, Sandra Semchuk, Andrea Fatona, Janell Morin, Kyoko and Tiger Goto.

The artist wishes to thank the support of Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council. Installation armatures are collaborations with artist Yorgo Liapis.