‘Masaki Ogihara’

by Donald Eubank

Gallery Hashimoto

Closes Sept. 27

This past weekend, the 11th version of Geisai, Takashi Murakami’s art spectacle, attracted nearly 1,000 young artists who assembled their own stalls in Odaiba’s Tokyo Big Sight, home of the similar DesignFesta. While there was a lot to see, and tons of creative energy in the air, there weren’t many surprises — much of what was on show came close to the aesthetic of Murakami’s own KaiKai KiKi studio stable of artists. HIROKO won first place from the judges for a well-installed set of cute drawings that looked, well, like manga.

But there are treasures to be found at Geisai. Kagari Hashimoto of Gallery Hashimoto in Higashi Nihonbashi (www.space355.jp) came across painter Masaki Ogihara there when he won the Sejima Kazuyo Prize in 2005. Unable to forget his works, she gave him an exhibition, which runs till Sept. 27.

Ogihara, a full-time engineer at a semiconductor company, is a self-taught painter. His works have a rhythmic quality to them, especially his drawings, that repeat geometric themes as if they were sloppy schematics for electrical designs. In this they are like a cross between the repetitive gestures of influential American artist Cy Twombly and the French painter Joan Miro’s off-kilter bubbles of color. While Ogihara’s paintings have titles such as “Face” and “The Day After Tomorrow” that hint at actual subjects, his drawings are firmly in the abstract.

In creating atmosphere and exploring color, Japanese painters are great, but their works are often consumed by the subjects they present, especially the cartoon characters that pop up everywhere. What’s great about Ogihara is that it’s as if he’s painted the eyecatching backgrounds of these paintings and then been smart enough to leave out the least interesting parts. Let’s hoping that more artists start to look beyond the subject to give us the canvas itself.