tomoko hashimoto



Quintet V : Five-Star Artists, Exhibition Catalogue

Published by Togo Seiji Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art, Japan, 2017

Quintet III The Exhibiting Artists’ Sense of Nature

Masaru Igarashi
(Senior Chief Curator, Togo Seiji Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art)

[translated by Robert S. Reed]

Tomoko Hashimoto usually paints such common subjects as apples, persimmons, mandarin oranges, strawberries, camellia flowers, morning glories, marvel-of-Peru flowers and the surface waters of a river (Edogawa River). They have very simple forms with few contours for shadow of shading. Consequently, rather than the subjects she paints, it is how she depicts them that draws our interest. Hashimoto takes time to carefully apply thin layers of oil paint so that no traces of the brushwork remain, so that at first glance the images appear as if they could have been made of textile or printed by stencil, or perhaps be works of paper-cutting.

Another unique characteristic of Hashimoto’s work is how the scale with which she displays it turns the entire display space into a work of art. A good example was a display at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo in which camellia leaves and pine needles were stuck on the wall to look as if they were falling from the sky, drawing the viewers in to experience a space, a world of Hashimoto’s creation. This is a realization of what Hashimoto describes as her desire to share scenes, or landscapes with the viewers. In the past, Hashimoto has spoken of this as “paintings in spaces,” “functional paintings” or “paintings as scenery or landscapes,” citing traditional Japanese examples such as the paintings hung in tearooms (hanging scrolls), paintings on fusuma sliding wall panels and ceiling paintings, and Western examples like the altarpieces in churches. Through her displays, Hashimoto explores the concept of works that serve the role of scenery or landscapes in public places and, in this way, she is surely attempting to create fresh new spaces.

Hashimoto’s works appear 2-dimensional in execution, but they also have an aspect of depth. She works on supports made by pasting cotton cloth on wooden panels and applying a chalk-white base coating. On this she then slowly applies layer after layer of oil paint with a high degree of transparency in order to get a glossed finish with depth and a paint surface that is strong and durable. This method is exactly the same as the one of Jan van Eyck. Ever since the emergence of Neo-classicism in Western art, traces of the brushwork (impasto) have been left in paintings as expressions of the living artist’s breath. This remains as clear evidence of the painter’s emotions and physical presence. However, Hashimoto deliberately stifles this breath in a way that stresses anonymity, like the finishes on craft works like lacquer ware.

In her Edogawa series of recent years with their abstract expressions of commonplace river water surfaces, there is a compelling freshness. The picture plane is covered in indigo blue like a color field, but the color is nuanced with delicate gradations. Since there are also points of white depicting reflections of light, it is clear that they are water surfaces. This motif is also nothing uncommon, but the depth and the subtleties of the water surface of the river in different types of weather comes through to the viewer with artistic poignancy.