Takashi Tomo-oka features six scroll-mounted photographic works that combine the classical and contemporary. As a young artist, Tomo-oka became interested in nihonga (neo-traditional Japanese painting) but was drawn to photography, adopting the digital camera as his medium rather than a brush. Tomo-oka eliminates all extraneous visual information other than the subject itself—vegetal forms such as maples and dahlias. The resulting images display a sensibility similar to that of the Rimpa school’s nature studies in the 18th century, but replacing their gold leaf with stark white backgrounds. Each work is the result of careful study of the plant forms, including structure and color as well as their ephemerality. These spare compositions are digitally printed on washi paper and mounted in scroll format, further blurring the divide between his painterly sensibilities and digital methods.
Born in Kyoto prefecture in 1971 to a basket weaver and a dressmaker, Takashi Tomo-oka developed a keen eye for the diversity of the natural world at an early age while accompanying his father on field trips to gather bamboo for baskets. While living in the Kyoto area, which had long been an imperial capital of Japan, Tomo-oka was exposed to highly refined Japanese art forms. He later worked as a landscape gardener and gained access to famous temple complexes such as Byōdō-in and Ryōan-ji. This allowed him to incorporate first-hand experience of classical garden design and the paintings and other objects in the temple collections in his work. These life experiences created a unique perspective, richly grounded in the traditional arts of Japan, which dovetailed with the formal training he received as a painter at Kyoto Seika University. Tomo-oka lives and works in Tokyo, and had his first solo exhibition in the U.S. in New York in 2012. This is his first exhibition in an American museum and first appearance on the west coast.