Onishi Gallery is honored to present Bijin-ga, a stunning exhibition by contemporary Japanese painter Ichiro Tsuruta. A prolific illustrator in Japan for several decades already, Tsuruta first became widely recognized in 1987 when his artwork was featured in television commercials by the Japanese cosmetic company NOEVIA. For the next 11 years, the Japanese television viewing-public became familiar with Tsuruta’s iconic depictions of Japanese women’s faces, images that drew upon both Japanese Edo Period artistic traditions and Western Art Nouveau/Art Deco traditions. In Bijin-ga, Tsuruta’s first solo exhibition outside of Japan, viewers encounter the strikingly painted portraits of Japanese women that evoke both Eastern and Western visions, and that have made Tsuruta a renowned artist.
Named for the Japanese word “Bijin-ga” that describes images of beautiful women in Japanese artwork, particularly those designed by Japanese woodblock artists, this exhibition captures the spirit and history of “prints” of women’s faces that predated photography. Using vibrant colors and simple, clean lines, Tsuruta’s paintings pop off the canvas with the sharp angles, smooth curves, and alluring expressions that animate the women’s depictions.
Though his style is uniquely his own, Tsuruta’s artwork is influenced by multiple traditions. In Japanese history, the Rimpa School was an artistic movement that flourished during the Edo Period and was characterized by a highly decorative style of painting and applied arts, specifically lacquer and ceramics. Tsuruta’s paintings recall this period artwork but distinctively merge it with the work of contemporary artists such as Alex Katz, an American illustrator known for his flat, simplified style of painting. Tsuruta unites Western photo-realistic tendencies with traditional Japanese-style woodblock portraiture to produce innovative paintings that appeal to both fine art and commercial art aesthetics.
Referencing the decorative arts of Japan and Art Nouveau/Art Deco styles of the West, Tsuruta’s paintings bring together both traditional and modern creative approaches, Eastern and Western histories, commercial and fine art. Familiar and new, the faces of these women will enchant you.