You know, I saw a tweet the other day which was encouraging people to stop following influencers on social media and to start following artists, as influencers tend to drive poor self image in people (because they are always picture perfect, tanned, primed for looking their best) and make the younger generation aspire to a life that is not their full potential, where as artists inspire you to look at the world through the eyes of others. Now I guess there are pros and cons to both sides of this, as influencers are a sort of art form in a respect as they are painting a picture of their life…all be it maybe one that I wouldn’t want to live, and art does open up other cultures in ways that you can only experience through the depiction of someone who has lived that life. I find this really interesting as actually, both show you life through a different lens, just one is filled with what smoothie they had for breakfast and a vacuous selfie of them sipping a skinny cappuccino, and the other is a much deeper insight to the mind. Obviously I very much fall on the side of art over influencer (even though artists are in fact, a form of influencer… ) as rather than being spoon fed the answer of what is happening, you have to come to your own conclusions.
Atsuko Goto demonstrates that perfectly in her art, as there are so many key elements involved in bringing to life the ethereal beings that appear in her work.
Born in Tokyo in 1982, Goto studied in the University of Arts, and after winning an international art award, studied in Paris, before returning to Tokyo.
Her works revolve around a central theme which investigates the links between humans and nature, creation and decay as well as bases in Shinto. Inspiration has come from the Goddess Izanami-no-Mikoto who is known as the creator and the destroyer. Goto’s work sees the fine line between life and death, with elegant female visions, which are covered in butterflies or insects which assist with the decay of life and give back to the earth.
There are also very heavy influences from certain virtues of Japanese culture (which if I tried to explain I would need to write a book) as themes such as selflessness, resignation and obedience. All virtues which come to life as it passes over to death in one way or another.
Goto has an amazing technique of painting on cotton with pigments that are made from semi-precious lapis-lazuli and gum-arabic, which helps her create her hazy, subdued atmosphere. She uses dark colours to highlight the softer pallet which only assists in bringing vulnerability to her pieces underlining the fragility of life.
In “Dreaming Monster III” we see the face of a girl, covered with flowers and white butterflies as her hair is mixed with a swirling fog. The face is set in a look of absolute resignation of the fate which is unfolding and passively waits what is to come. The fog the decay rising, which will eventually overtake the life in the face, the flowers and the butterflies. It’s such a melancholy tone for something that is so beautiful.
Her work, especially because of the white butterflies, reminds me of a beautiful Japanese folk story, which I would like to think has some baring on Goto’s work, simply because of the use of the very symbolic white butterfly.
There was a man called Takahama, he lived a quite life, and many thought it strange that while he was from a wealthy family and had served an apprenticeship as a craftsman, he had taken a job as a caretaker for a cemetery. He now lived in a very humble house amidst the tombs and tended the grounds. As he never married, his sister and her son would visit him. This was hard for them due to having to visit in a cemetery and the son would often try not to visit due to the eerie location.
One day Takahama was taken mortally ill. His sister and her son made the trip to be with Takahama. Arriving they found him in bed, with a white butterfly flitting around his face, often resting on the pillow next to him. The son batted he butterfly away three times, but it refused to move away from Takahama. As the old man took his last breath the butterfly flew out of the door. The son realising this was an omen followed the butterfly, which led him to a tomb, it then disappeared. The tomb was sixty years old, but well tended with fresh flowers, which was unusual for an old tomb. The son took the name which was on the tomb and went back to tell his mother what had happened.
On telling his mother the story, she asked what the name was on the tomb. “Akiko” the son responded. The mother then explained that Takahama had been in love with Akiko, but she died just before they were able to wed. Takahama couldn’t bear to be away from Akiko, so left his promising career and took the job as the cemetery caretaker so that he could always be near his true love. He then tended her grave every day for the duration of his life. The butterfly was Akiko’s soul, who must have missed him visiting her grave, therefore decided to look in on him… waiting for him to leave with her.
The story is a clear and powerful understanding of the virtue of selfless love being stronger than death, and that choosing love over wealth and power can bring the selflessness and obedience which is seen in Goto’s work.
I think that Goto’s work is amazing and so clever at depicting the culture that she has been immersed in. Her careful balance between colours only echoing the sentiment of how our own lives hang in a balance, where (if you believe) your actions are judged on the virtues you display and the truth that you build for yourself.
If you want to see more of Goto’s work you can find it here
What do you see in Dreaming Monster III? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?
Want to see more of what inspires me or what I am working on? You can find me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram by searching WidowCranky.
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