Artists have proven that there truly is no end to one’s imagination, and though many let the course of their mind run free and explore various fields, rare few dare to truly delve into the subjects considered taboo, even within the confinement of their own thoughts.
For the art of Toshio Saeki, it can be said that it (re)defined the boundaries of taboo by bringing out his own ideas and dreams in the shape of sexually explicit, over-the-top illustrations of sex and violence. Like poking at an exposed end of the nerve, Saeki’s depictions strike exactly where many are afraid to go, making his works hailed as a refreshing sight to some, and a gruesome experience to others.
With tied up girls, snakes, raving madmen and old businessmen put in the most unexpected, intense, controversial situations, one must dare to look past the first impression to discover the full experience and depth of the Toshio Saeki art.
There’s far more to Toshio Saeki’s explicit, perverse depictions than the initial sense of intensity and immorality - more than just his own past, Saeki brought the Japanese tradition to the table, immersing it into the already vast world of contemporary Japanese culture dominated by anime and manga.
In order to bring his dreams and ideas to life, Saeki formed his practice around the medieval Japanese art known as ukiyo-e that flourished in Japan between the 17th and 19th century. However, instead of themes of courtesans and geisha at leisure, the artist opted to explore ideals through mystery that lies in shame, immorality and horror.
Though his ways might have not be very conventional, they most definitely stroke a note in viewers, regardless of their cultural preferences when it comes to art, and even more so with those that are already enthusiastic for the Japanese culture.
His work is mostly sold out and becomes increasingly hard to come by, followed largely by young adults in Europe and America who enjoy the Japanese illustration.
Each of Toshio Saeki’s disturbing images features moments that strike hard both the eye and the mind. Some might consider that it takes a lot of gut to scan through the canvas of his works, and they would often be right: a bald woman pleasing herself with a dead man’s hand, a boy watching a man make out with a naked two-headed woman, an elephant pleasing a woman in the circus are just the tip of the iceberg of Saeki’s art.
Though these moments dominate the scenes, the exploration of Saeki’s mind went further beyond the gruesome, hard-to-swallow first impression. Amidst the sexually charged horror, one often gets to see acts of humor that derive from the author’s own personality; diseased characters that are inspired by the youth spent next to his sick father; the idea of women bound with ropes coming from Saeki’s past of working in S&M magazines.
Inspired by curiosity in these very moments in the past, he was pushed by the same notion in his current artistic endeavors.
As a man who was greatly attracted to mystery himself, Saeki explored the scary, paranormal, “taboo” things that might bring the closest sensation of wonder to the viewer. Even the erotically charged, weird, and perverse situations and characters are shrouded in a certain enigma that is hard to understand, subtly conveying the artist’s exploration that “hides in plain sight”.
Boldly taking the viewer where they might not have wanted to go, Toshio Saeki delved into uncharted territory of not just the social norms, but the artistic practice itself.
Featured images: Toshio Saeki's illustrations. All images used for illustrative purposes only.