Takao Tanabe


“…the views I favour are the grey mists, the rain-obscured islands and the clouds that hide the details. However much we desire order and clarity in all the details of our lives, there are always unexpected events that cloud and change our course. Life is ragged. The typical weather of the coast is like that, just enough detail to make it interesting but not so clear as to be banal or overwhelming. It can be a metaphor for life.
                                                                                                                        Takao Tanabe[i]

Born in 1926 the son of a fisherman in Seal Cove, B. C., Takao Tanabe spent his childhood on the Canadian Pacific Coast. In 1941, when the Canadian government introduced restrictions against Japanese Canadians, he and his family were placed in an internment camp in the Kootenays. After Word War II Tanabe enrolled at the Winnipeg School of Art and in 1950 relocated to New York, where he studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and with the abstract painter Hans Hofmann. After his return to Vancouver in 1952, he won a scholarship to travel to Britain and in 1959 to go to Japan, where he was trained in Japanese ink painting and Zen calligraphy at Tokyo University of Arts from 1959-61. After his return to Canada, Tanabe taught at the Vancouver School of Art and the Banff School of Art. While formerly focused on abstraction his interest now turned towards landscape, and he produced a series of prairie panoramas in Banff. By 1980 Tanabe quit his teaching career and started painting full time. His sparse, expansive vistas of fjords, inlets and channels, enwrapped in atmospheric mist and fog, possess a Zen-like serenity, resonant of Tanabe’s Japanese heritage.

Takao Tanabe is one of Canada leading artists and has exhibited extensively in Canada and internationally. A retrospective of his art travelled to major galleries across Canada in 2005. The artist is recipient of The Order of British Columbia, The Order of Canada, and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

[i] in an artist’s statement of Oct. 12, 1999, cited by Roger H. Boulet in his essay in the exhibition catalogue Takao Tanabe: Wet Coasts and Dry Lands (Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna, B.C., 2000), at p. 13