Depicting the myth

Digital "painting" is an art form of the computer age.

Izanagi (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Digital "painting" is an art form of the computer age. There are those artists who have given up the brush and canvas for a screen and a mouse, creating novel composite images in video form or as flat digital prints. But in most cases, these computerized images, originals or those retouched by Photoshop techniques, fall short of the academic faculties and the innovative mind an artist working in traditional media must bring to bear. There are, however, the exceptional artists who transcend the obvious and fall into the category of master digitizer. One such practitioner is the digital media content creator Seishiro Jay Tomioka. Born in Florida (1974) to a Japanese father and an American mother, Tomioka feels he has one foot in Japan and one in the States, a geographic symbiosis that has affected the way in which he creates his artworks. For several years he has concerned himself with Japanese mythology, and his current exhibition at Haifa's Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art is a series of digital compositions based on the celestial couple Izanagi and Izanami, creators of the universe. According to Dr. Ilana Singer, chief curator at Tikotin, Tomioka tries to interpret and actualize the Japanese myth so that it will be meaningful today. In response, Tomioka says: "All of my images carry the seed of narrative within them and often have an overt storytelling component… In the absence of a stated narrative, the viewer will insert his or her own assumed narrative based on their own context… some images require a more directed contextual approach to deliver a more specific message. I try to accomplish this in an entertaining rather than didactic manner. I believe that art in general, and photographs in particular, should inspire us with beauty, show us something we have not seen before and inform us about something we do not know." After intensive research, Tomioka, acting as a film director and costume designer, prepared a sort of story board that included detailed planning of the narrative continuity of his Izanagi and Izanami epic. In his slender horizontal and vertical rectangular panels, in keeping with the tradition of Far Eastern scroll painting, Tomioka is able to sustain a storytelling pattern where one action follows another and where diaphanous figures and nature blend together with ease. The entire composition is held together by overlapping opaque and translucent shapes that provide additional subtlety to the pictorial message. A triple portrait of Izanami, dressed in a variety of delightful kimonos, is set amidst fields of cotton, decorative floral patterns, large white azaleas and a clearly defined white and yellow moon shape that sweeps from a body of water at the base to a pale sky on the picture's upper edge. With no self-importance attached to her demeanor, she stands in a pair of three-quarter views and one close-up sporting a Giaconda smile staring directly at the spectator. The lightness of the Izanami print is counterbalanced by a portrait of Izanagi. The male god, also smiling, observes the heavens with a sense of accomplishment - or possibly sheer pleasure in being who he is. Holding a ceremonial spear, he is contained within the bars of a toothed, fence-like structure staged before a domestic footbridge and a metallic tree carved from the background. The entire frame is in tones of bronze, yellow and ivory, and with the occasional flitting vignette of flowers contrasts the nimble portrayal of his female counterpart. Tomioka's talents in photography and post-computer processing are indicated not necessarily in his colorful prints, but in a handful of near black-and-white illustrations. One, entitled Izanagi Bathing #12, indicates the artist's sensitivity to the graphic technique as his descriptions of smoothly modeled bodily forms in warmish gray tints dart in and out of pale light and dark shadows. Another, Izanagi's Right Eye, is created in the same spirit. A full figure standing erect, colored in the slightest tint of a diluted reddish-sepia and wearing a distinctive white loincloth covers his face, altered into a negative image, from the burning flash of some heavenly spark. For the sheer beauty of Tomioka's imagery and the wonderment of his technical prowess, this exhibition is highly recommended.n Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Sderot Hanassi 89, Haifa. Tel. (04) 838-3554. Sunday to Wednesday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.