There is nothing perfect about the pretty “Tokyo girls” that artist Tomoyoshi Sakamoto paints. Sweet with a twist of irony, his acrylic paintings are representative of Neo-Nihonga Japanese style. In one painting, girls play “dress up” in a scene that would look like any typical sleepover. As they apply their makeup, one horrifyingly ties strings to another’s watery eyes. Tears are a common characteristic of Sakamoto’s subjects, as they inflict pain and humiliation upon themselves. Not all of his works are graphic, but more melancholy. A simpler scene portrays a girl smiling as she watches incense burn on a sweet cake. The picture is ironic because, instead of candles, there is incense in the cake which is used in Buddhist memorial services. This suggests something sinister.
“Three Wise Girls: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil”
Sakamoto’s work is meant to be off-putting or uncomfortable to look at, but we look anyway. In a nonsexual way, Sakamoto builds a sort of sadomasochism between subject and viewer. As they endure misery, the viewer receives the image and can find pleasure in the aesthetic of the piece. Adding to this effect is the technique that is used. They are finely rendered, soft and youthful, with expressions that are cute and Manga-like. By making light of morbid subject matter, his imagery is almost comical. However, Sakamoto offers neither antipathy nor sympathy. Like his painting “Three Wise Girls: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil,” he seems to turn a blind eye to impropriety.