<%-- Page Title--%> Art <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 119 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 22, 2003

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of Devi, Pods, Flowers and Phantasm

Mustafa Zaman

Toru Matsuoka is a soft-spoken chubby little fellow. His childish physical attributes and quaint composure somehow seem to be in key with what he makes. He makes human figures, and even parts of it and also birds, masks that remind one of childish dreams visited by spectres that are graceful amalgams of humans and flowers or even vegetables. His is a fantastic world inhabited by harmless, beautiful mutants. They beckon you to touch them, as they look as if they have descended from an absurdist fairytale.

"A certain artist's dream"

Toru's solo consists of two sets of works, one set showing his photographs that are clips from his theatrical surreal dramas that tell stories. Stories that he made up, and presents them in sequence. But they have their antecedents in the local myth of the Sakushima island of Japan.

The artist relates that there is a temple in the island where a sea goddess is worshipped. The goddess, according to the myth, saved a child washed away to the sea by flood. The devi saves the child and returns it to her mother. Basing his stories on this popular myth, Toru fabricates the rest of it, which are his own myths.

In one picture he shows two women in wired props attached to their upper bodies and hands and back. The bright yellow props derive their shapes from the Buddhist chura (long hair tied up in a knot on the top of the head), from the temple edifice and imaginary flowers. In his myth the same goddess “is in search of happiness” as Toru relates. He elaborates, “ the two ladies in two different props are at different stages of their search, one has seen a faint glimpse of happiness and the other one is far away from finding it. In another photograph, a childless couple in mysterious masks are searching for a child. The artist puts them in the same Sukushima island.

Burning bird.

In his photographs as well as in his sculptures he seems to want to marry the childish with the mystic. The religiosity behind his efforts is obvious. Every piece is a result of an awe-struck mind that responded to the myths and the surrounding physical environment with the zeal of a pantheist. Hence the fusion of flowers, vegetables and human forms into components of pure innocence.

Existence of humans, in his line of thinking, is wound up with every other organic matter. This is why the bulbous form that pops out of his human head, which in Toru's words “the embodiment of thoughts”, looks like a fine round vegetable. Even his human head, occasionally, are meshed with organic forms. In the work titled “ a certain artist's dream” the flames have the shape of

His expertise in making his small-sized paper sculptures links him with a Japanese tradition that goes back a long way. “The figures are first made with clay, and it is an old process,” confirms the artist. It is the subsequent addition of layers of Japanese hand-made paper that become the skin of the original form made with clay. The skin later becomes his sculpture, when the clay is scooped out. The process lends his art a lightness that is essentially post-modern. The colour of his paper art is often yellow, and at times yellow-orange and only occasionally red. His yellow and orange are colours of pollen and the red too is carrot-red.

Tory hovers in between the worlds of organic and mythic imagery, grace is the air that makes up the environ.


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