“The west coast has its bright, clear days where all is revealed, but the views I favour are the grey mists…. The typical weather of the coast is like that, just enough detail revealed to make it interesting but not as clear as to be banal or overwhelming. It can be a metaphor for life.”
Takao Tanabe was born in 1926 in Seal Cove, British Columbia, a small village about five kilometers northeast of Prince Rupert. He was the fourth of six children born to Japanese-Canadian parents. His father was a commercial fisherman and the family lived at Seal Cove in the winters, and commercial fishing camps along the Skeena River in the summertime. At age eleven, he and his family moved to Vancouver, but in1941, after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour, all Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to internment camps. Tanabe’s family spent two years in the camp at Lemon Creek, in the Slocan Valley of BC.
Upon his release he moved to Winnipeg where his career in art began. Tanabe attended the Winnipeg School of Art and in the1950s went on to study in New York, under the German-born abstract expressionist painter Hans Hoffman. He later returned to Vancouver and received an Emily Carr foundation scholarship, which afforded him two years of study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, England. Tanabe has also studied took at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and under the Japanese calligrapher Yanagida Taiun. He taught at the Vancouver School of Art and also served as the head of the Art department at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Takao Tanabe is the recipient of several honorary doctorates, a member of the orders of Canada, BC and the Royal Canadian Academy. He now resides in Parksville, BC.