The “Absolute Beauty” of Takashi Tomo-oka


Magnolia 2, 2011, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

Tomorrow, April 19, we’re opening our second new exhibition this month: Takashi Tomo-oka. In this exhibition, artist Takashi Tomo-oka combines contemporary photography with traditional scroll forms to stunning, yet minimalist effect. In our exhibition brochure, Tomo-oka discusses his work and influences, excerpted below:

“I wish to express the beauty of kaboku, which is to say ‘flowers and trees,’ using photographic techniques to create an image resembling a painting. I want to be able to feel the unadorned beauty of the plants, using a composition consisting solely of the plant and empty space, making the picture as simple as possible.


Maple, 2010, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

“My photographs are all tall and narrow (the same proportions as calligraphy paper) as I instinctively found this ratio to be ideal for expressing plants. I think that this may be a result of my experience of seeing painted hanging scrolls, fusuma (sliding door panels) and folding screens in temples as a young boy.

“When I worked as a gardener, I visited the gardens of Kyoto’s famous temples every day. Although I saw these gardens daily, they would change their expression in a moment as I looked at them. In particular, Japan has four very distinct seasons and the gardens’ appearance would alter completely with each season. They also changed according to the state of the viewer’s mind. Each garden possessed a kind of universality that I could always feel while I was working there.

“There is a big difference between photographs and paintings. In painting the artist looks at the subject, considers it, then passes it through the ‘filter’ of his or her physical body to depict it; photography is much more direct. Photography cannot exist without a concrete subject (in my case flowers). There has to be something material in order for the camera to cut out a moment of its existence. When photographing plants, their natural power and aesthetics are

Lotus 3

Lotus 3, 2011, Digital photograph printed on washi mounted on scroll, Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery, ©Takashi Tomo-oka

expressed directly without passing through the filter that is me. I photograph plants that are on the verge of decay because they are beautiful. It is my ambition to capture the expressions unique to each plant. If you can feel the power of the plant, then my ability and individuality becomes almost unnecessary.

“The reason why I choose flowers as my subject is because I like them. No other reason is necessary but if I were to venture one, it would be that I think they possess an absolute beauty that mankind is incapable of copying. The time I spend in contact with plants (growing them, collecting them from the mountains, observing them every day as I wait for them to reach their best condition) is vastly longer than the time I spend actually photographing them. Before I take a photograph I like to get to know the plant well, observing it carefully and make sketches. The time I spend in contact with plants is when I am at my happiest.”

Takashi Tomo-oka is on view from April 19 through July 28, 2013. A number of programs will accompany this exhibition, including Art and Coffee on May 10, Fusion Fridays on June 21, and a Curator’s Tour on July 13. Check the exhibition page on our website for more details, and make sure to see these beautiful works in person tomorrow when the show opens! ~CM


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