Obata Taku

小畑 多丘

 Obata Taku Top Image 1053x544

In celebration of Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, Japan House London was delighted to display the new sculpture of artist and break dancer Obata Taku in spring 2020, created during his Artist’s Residency at City & Guilds of London Art School

A graduate from Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geidai), Obata Taku’s work explores the tension and dynamism of the human body taking inspiration from his background as a B-Boy. His work investigates the relationship between the human body and clothes through life-size hand carved and coloured wooden figures that express space and power. In addition to his hip-hop inspired work, his series ‘BUTTAI’ (meaning simply ‘object’ in Japanese) takes shape and space to abstraction with photography and motion pictures.

The Shop at Japan House London has displayed his most recent work, created during his one-year long Artist Residency at City & Guilds of London Art School. Japan House London recently spoke to Obata Taku during lockdown with questions posed by our social media followers across the world, keen to know more on his craft and inspiration. Scroll down to see his responses.

Mastering the craft

Obata Taku attended the Tokyo University of the Arts in Ueno (commonly known as Tokyo Geidai), one of the most prestigious arts universities in Japan and considered a hub of young talented creators including Takahashi Hiroko and Obata himself. During his time at Geidai, Obata enjoyed the freedom given to artists and learned practical skills from how to make and use tools of his craft through to how to move large objects and work as part of a team. In 2019, Obata embarked on a residency at City & Guilds of London Art School, and the work created during this period, part of his symmetry series, was displayed earlier this year at Japan House London; a life-size B-Girl striking a pose. 

B-Boy sculpture

Each one of Obata Taku’s sculptures has style and personality, very much like a dancer themselves, stemming from his deep understanding of the moves and gestures that B-Boys perform in dance battles. Obata is expert in expressing the relationship between the human body and clothes. He achieves this through life-size hand carved and coloured wooden figures that enhance awareness of space and the power of the body. In doing so, he explores the tension and dynamism of the human body, taking inspiration from his background as a B-Boy and his passion for hip-hop culture.

Carving: tools and techniques

Obata Taku is a master at the free-hand technique, a method he prefers owing to the power of expression and freedom of movement it enables the sculptor. When in Japan, Obata would start from a single piece of tree trunk and carefully chisel his way through by following a drawing penciled directly onto the wood. When residing in London, however, Obata often found it challenging to procure a single block of wood, instead assembling 21 square pieces of timber to produce the main working block. From here, Obata carries out all the processes by hand using Japanese wood carving tools such as sawdust, fleas, carving swords and cannas.


Obata Taku’s figural art captures the energy and raw power of the B-Boy or B-Girl, focussing on the body in motion and inspired by hip-hop culture and breakdance. Breakdancing grew in popularity in Japan in the early 1980s, and Obata Taku was influenced by hip-hop in the early 1990s during junior high, and high school and incorporated it into his own original form and style of dance. In 1999, Taku formed the dancing crew UNITYSELECTIONS, and in the early 2000s they achieved fame as stage front acts, guest performers and backing dancers, going on to perform in battle contests at major events, including BBOYPARK.

2-D art: drawings and paintings

Obata Taku’s drawing style is as distinctive as his approach to sculpture. Obata's unique, and colourful drawing style captures the essence of his vision whilst simultaneously deforming the human body and deconstructing its individual anatomical features. Inspired by graffiti and street-art, he uses spray paint on large sheets of paper and spreads the colour around, playing with the abstract shapes that form in front of him. Being at one with movement is central to Obata's drawing technique. Intuition to the sense of movement is the very drive of his technique with Obata often following the flow of paint to create the figures.


Interestingly, all of the works in Obata Taku’s BUTTAI series are in stark contrast to his sculptural work. BUTTAI, the Japanese word for object, is Obata’s exploration of Japanese woodcarving techniques and conceptual abstraction through a series of meticulously hand-carved objects. In doing so, he uses this unique series of objects to investigate the connection between form, space and weightlessness. In creating a BUTTAI video, Obata invites more than ten people to play catch-ball with the ‘objects’ and merges the recorded movements into a single video. Whilst the videos can look surreal and artificial, they are the result of a very physical experience.

Online Q&A Session with Obata Taku

Japan House London recently spoke to Obata Taku during lockdown with questions posed by our social media followers across the world, keen to know more on his craft and inspiration.


Q: How many years did it take for you to consider yourself a sculptor?

A: It took about eight years since I started sculpture to decide that I was actually a sculptor. 


Q:The amazing elongated Lazer like goggles. Where did that idea come from?

A: The goggles are inspired by the fashion of old hip hop. It didn’t make sense to me to just recreate them exactly as they are, so the idea was to take an original shape and to make it a mysterious space.


Q: Beyond breaking, where else do you draw inspiration from?

A: I am most inspired by nature, its diversity and creativity.


Q: What inspired you to combine Japanese woodcarving and modern culture?

A: I always wanted to have a B-boy wood sculpture, and 18 years ago I was convinced that there wasn't anyone else in the world who was inspired to carve a B-Boy wood sculpture. I wanted to push the boundaries by doing carving instead of the modelling I am used to. 


Q: Which artist or painter has influenced you the most?

A: Two names spring to mind, Michelangelo and Denchu Hirakushi.


Find out more about Obata Taku:

Instagram: TAKU_OBATA
Twitter @TakuSpeFAD


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