Seven and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011. During those years, people have often discussed the post-earthquake art and literature. There must also be those who have been unconsciously and unknowingly influenced by the quake disasters, despite having no intention of proactively facing the problems involved. Thus, such an influence was not limited to artists but also those on the side of appreciating art. I hesitate to cite how I was personally affected by the quake, but in the aftermath, I became very attracted to craftworks and sculptures, instead of installation and video art. I analyzed the reason for my own change of artistic preference and thought that it was from my growing desire to seek a solid sense of existence, as a result of becoming keenly aware of how vulnerable the world I live in is.
I would now like to refer to the new works of Tomoko Hashimoto.
In her painting, Hashimoto has consistently depicted reductive images of flowers, which seemingly float on a flat ground that appears to be in a single color, but which are in fact created from multi-layered colors. Such an image conveys a very Japanese impression, but the artist has a different idea. She once stated that her aim was to eliminate as many narrative and emotional elements from her work as possible. That is, she aims to create a painting that can be seen as a physical object. She produces a flat color-field through employing the Western classical technique of tapping the surface plane with a dabbing brush. She uses this method to avoid having the shine of paint and visible brushstrokes on the canvas emotionally affect the viewer. Hashimoto also explained that she adopted flowers so as to not add any particular meaning to her motifs. Come to think of it, the flowers she has painted are not celebrated ones; rather, she selects familiar flowers that bloom commonly in fields, such as henbit dead-nettle and red clover.
After having stuck to a rather stoical production style, Hashimoto has slightly changed her expression in recent years. That is, she has begun to utilize color gradations for her backdrops and the flower petals, which have created a deep sense of sentiment across the entire space of the painting. According to Hashimoto, she has come to accept the sentiment inherent in her works. I am well aware that associating her mind to shift her style of expression with the quake disasters is quite a stretched interpretation. But I also cannot help but feel that the flowers she has depicted in recent years have been meant as her offerings to the deceased. More interestingly, she began to paint a river surface in her works beginning from 2012. People tend to associate their life with a river. For instance, the author Kamo no Chomei's essay Hojoki/An Account of My Hut (1212) begins with a passage that alludes to the transience of life: “The flow of the river is ceaseless; and its water is never the same.” Rivers are also places where rituals for the repose of souls are held in Japan, such as with shoronagashi, in which the spirits of the deceased are sent off in paper boats on a river. After having initially aimed to eliminate narrative and emotional features from her works, she has noticeably adopted the motif of a river, which is closely connected with people's lives and deaths. In my view, this shift was due to the influence of the 3/11 earthquake. In her recent works, while still maintaining a solid sense of physicality similar to a craftwork, she has begun to express profound sentiments. Therefore, I would like to cite her works in recent years as being among the most outstanding of post-quake artworks. For her works can serve as a spiritual support for us living in this post-quake period of uncertainty.