Similar to flowers that are arranged in the tokonoma/alcove of a Japanese tearoom, the viewers of Tomoko Hashimoto's works can not only appreciate the elements of “her works” (which are nearly equivalent to flowers), but also the entire space (which is nearly equivalent to a tearoom).
The title of one of her new works in this exhibition, Sumidagawa River, describes the image of a river that flows in the metropolis of Tokyo. The slightly murky river surface that reflects our present life also conveys its depths in the night that has swallowed the light of day. As one stands inside the exhibition space of Sumidagawa River, one begins to feel the river slowly flowing beyond the picture plane as it harmonizes with the work Cherry Blossoms, which blooms on the opposite wall, and also with the entire space. This perception can remind one of the Bosen tearoom in Koho-an Temple, which is one of the sub-temples at the Daitokuji Temple in Murasakino, Kyoto. Koho-an was built by the Japanese feudal lord and tea master Kobori Enshu. The room is devised so that the reflection of the afternoon sunlight in the garden shimmers on the ceiling. Hence, the visitors inside the Bosen tearoom feel as if they are gazing upon the outside scenery on a floating boat.
Hashimoto wrote as follows in the leaflet for her 2013 solo exhibition FLAT/BAROQUE: Painting Expression:
Plants, rivers, oceans, and the sky all drastically transform, much more so than human beings. Despite this, they do not show any egoistic nature. All things are connected with one another and exist just as they are.
Hashimoto creates her works through a self-controlled, neutral mindset, so that she can respect things just as they are. Her motifs of flowers and fruit, which at a glance all have a Pop-Art-like sense, derive from her faithfully abstracting them from their respective forms. Her works give an impression that they are Japanese-style paintings due to the forms of the motifs, the floating sensation they give off, and their nearly single-color backdrops. On the carefully made chalk ground, she creates the surface texture through thinly applying multiple layers of colors with oil paint; then she uses a dabbing brush to tap on the surface in order to eliminate any visible brushstrokes. The surface texture of her work gracefully coexists with the gallery space, without revealing the overwhelming process the artist performed. This appearance would not only fit very nicely with the tearoom space of the Koho-an Temple, but also with the term “bosen.” I hesitate to define a Zen term, but “bosen” (“bo” means “to forget,” and “sen” means “a fish-trapping device”) indicates that “once a fish is caught, one should forget the tool/fish trap that was used for that purpose.” This means that when one's purpose is accomplished, one should not adhere to the means; that is, one should accomplish the purpose without adhering to the means. We tend to forget our purpose―where we are heading toward and what we are focused on―and be caught up in trivial things. But when we encounter an overwhelming existence, we become oblivious of the self and begin to focus on what lies hereafter. I feel that this mindset will allow us to consider the essentials in life and the time of eternity.