Nanzuka Gallery in Tokyo is currently showing “An actress is not a machine, but they treat you like a machine”, a solo exhibition of new works by Hajime Sorayama. The prolific Japanese artist has created a series of paintings modeled after American actress Marilyn Monroe, in addition to three-dimensional manifestations of his renowned “Sexy Robot” series. The artist started this series back in 1978 and has been his most successful and recognizable body of work ever since. Following the Japanese focus on technology and science, along with his unique view of sexuality and female beauty, these works helped Sorayama establish his worldwide reputation.
Working as a freelance illustrator, Sorayama mastered his precisely detailed, erotic, hand-painted airbrush technique before the wide popularity of CGI or Photoshop. His almost hyper-realistic paintings had a strong influence far beyond the boundaries of Japan’s commercial art scene, presenting an impact on Hollywood films, the world’s street art and fine art. For these biomechanoid futuristic portrayals of women, he’s been using pin-up art as a reference, combining it with suggestive poses and highly realistic depictions of hi-tech materials as well as latex and leather.
This objectification of women as literal sex machines has always had strong opposition, but their seductive feel and Sorayama’s technical skills have managed to pave their way to the mainstream. The sole title of his show, “An actress is not a machine, but they treat you like a machine”, further provokes such reaction, but the aesthetics of his work continue to win over moral questions about it. When asked about his subjects, Sorayama describes them as his own “goddess cult” that hes been drawing since high school days. His airbrush technique allows him to render his characters with great detail, portrayed in acrobatic postures that are absolutely impossible to realize with photography, and dressed in costumes that do not exist in reality. He can modify the body without being confined to anatomical limitations and have the liberty to collage and compose beautiful women in accordance to his own taste.