Bibliography English  |  Japanese

Selected Bibliography (exhibition catalogs, periodicals, newspapers, etc.)

Yasushi Kurabayasi
“Naoko Tomioka works in DOMANI Exhibition” monthly magazine MONTHLY GALLERY (February 2016)
Yasushi Kurabayasi “Art for Humanity” quarterly magazine BIOCITY, No.65
Kazuhiko Shibusawa
“DOMANI: The Art of Tomorrow Exhibition” review, newspaper, Sankei Shinbun (December, 17, 2015)
Kenji Ishikawa “Art”, weekly magazine ECONOMIST (February 3, 2015)
review, newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbun (February 2, 2015)
“Guiding the landscape of abstract painting” newspaper review from THE JAPAN TIMES (January 30, 2015)
Keiko Kishi review, newspaper, Mainichi Shinbun (January 28, 2015)
Wakato Onishi review, newspaper, Asahi Shinbun (January 28, 2015)
Kazuhiko Shibusawa review, newspaper, Sankei Shinbun (January 22, 2015)
Masaru Igarashi
“QuintetⅡ:Five-Star Artists” catalogue,
2010 Makoto Murata “artscape 1999>2009,” BankART1929
Nobuyuki Hiromoto
“Naoko Tomioka resonance-Ⅱ”“Naoko Tomioka –Living Light and Color,”“Reproduction of Color and Quality of Light,” VERITAS ARS NECESSARIA,
Veritas catalogue 2009
2005 Yasushi Kurabayashi “A Trip to Memory of Light,” on the web, Skydoor Gallery, Tokyo
Kunio Motoe
“Naoko Tomioka or The Metaphysics of Light,”exhibition catalogue
(Daiichi Life Gallery and Gallery Natsuka, Tokyo)
2004 Anonymous “The Art of Lucid Light,” monthly art magazine Bien, vol. 24
Anonymous “The Art of Lucid Light,” vol.24, monthly art magazine Bien
Akio Sakegami
“The Jam Session at Doll’s Festival,” KITCHEN CHIMERA
Vol.080 (Galleria Chimera,Tokyo)
2000 Emiko Namikawa “International Art Festival·Tachikawa 2000,”exhibition catalogue
Akio Sakegami
“Intercommunication,” review from November issue,
monthly magazine Calligraphy Scene
Natsuko Kusanagi
“Unknown Space beyond Paintings,” review from newspaper Tokyo Shimbun
(October 8, 1999)
Kenji Ishikawa “Luring Light,” review from newspaper Mainichi Shimbun (September 30, 1999)
Masato Sasaki
“A visual culture vessel:what we must continue to see” exhibition catalogue
(Exhibition Space, Tokyo)
Makoto Murata
“A Painter who lets picture emerge,” Encyclopedia of Artist of 21st Century,
weekly magazine AERA
Katsumi Miyazaki
“The Vision of Contemporary Art 1994-98,” collection catalogue
(Daiichi Life Gallary, Tokyo)
Makoto Murata “Seeking for Joy of Seeing,” February issue, monthly magazine Nikkei Art
1996 Masaki Higuchi “Sensible Paintings,” exhibition catalogue (Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo)
Satoru Nagoya “VOCA'96,” exhibition catalogue (The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo)
1995 Kunio Motoe “The Double Light,” KITCHEN CHIMERA Vol.8 (Galleria Chimera, Tokyo)

A Trip to Memory of Light

Yasushi Kurabayashi

Lately, I had a chance to see both new and recent works by Naoko Tomioka at two of her solo exhibitions. The impression I had while looking at those done between 1999 through 2001 was that the paintings, on the whole and particularly in the white areas, were so bright that I could not look straight at them. On the other hand, her newer works from 2004 through 2005 were subtle in light and shades of color. Though both were objectified enough, the past ones featured a brightness" of more straight, acute qualities of sheer crystal, while the new ones seemed to show many gradual color layers providing the surfaces with depth".

It impressed me while talking with her that Tomioka has an inner, explicit  vision," which, she says, is very personal," a resolute vision within a painter's awareness, which will be expressed in painting a picture. This appears to go against the stream of ideas of modern/contemporary paintings. But, on further reflection, such a contact with paintings (or images) as hers seems to now again have become characterized as the most contemporary (and universal) attitude for us, in view of self-awareness of our personal feeling or sense, or the way our perception should be.

Memories and traces of light passing through the human body and sensation will form visions in man. Furthermore, if considering that man takes in the energy of light in various ways, I wonder if I could conclude that man is actually formed of light. I hear that the contemporary theory of memory says that we stock inside the brain every thing that we come across in everyday life, and that to call up our memory is, in other words, to gain access to amount of information that remains usually unused. If so, every memory of light that we come across in our life, together with accompanying air, wind, sounds, noise, smells, or emotions, is stocked inside the brain. Thinking so makes me feel mysterious: our brain is filled with light. Then, the significance of Tomioka's activity of painting a picture is probably found in that the artist and each viewer will be able to gain access to such collective memories of light and own them in common.

(Art critic)

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Naoko Tomioka or The Metaphysics of Light

“...and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;     it tolls for thee.”-------John Donne

Kunio Motoe


Nearly ten years have passed since I had my first opportunity to view Naoko Tomioka's works. During this period, she has been consistently faithful to her theme of “light.” However, her works are not of the common lyrical type that are rich in nuances, nor are they related in any way to the “ostentatious works” that make up the recent artistic trend that is conscious of film-based works. I would venture to say that the light created by Tomioka does not merely consist of rays of light or reflections of light, but is a metaphysical type of light. The light in her work seems to slash through our bodies in a fatalistic way, while also pervading us with a mystical sensation that allows us to perceive a sense of unity with the universe. Whenever I view Tomioka's works, I am always reminded of some kind of crystal or cut glassware.  That is to say, although her light is transparent, it sparkles in a solid way; it possesses a substantial, as opposed to an elusive, type of radiance.

Why is the light found in Tomioka's works materialistic to the point that it is practically an absolute entity of its own? There are many ways to answer (and inquire into) this question, but from the few conversations I have held with the artist, I am convinced of one thing: there probably was a certain time and place in her life when she had a decisive experience with light that purely condensed the passage of time itself into a single moment. Though this might sound somewhat like mysticism, no matter how sensually teasing her works might be, Tomioka's light is so firmly realistic and concrete that I am forced to think in this way. This characteristic is exactly the reason why the world that is formed by her works rejects all sentiments.

Therefore, I think to myself, isn't it wrong for light to stay “popularized” (that is, seen through the prism of conventional sentiments) when it can exist as such a realistic existence, as is found in Tomioka's works? When light is examined through viewing Tomioka's works, which she creates very independently and with an extremely sincere attitude, it should be understood as a “vision” (derived from the Latin videre, “to see”), or as the manifestation of “absoluteness of vision.” A vision that one has seen and has learned from experience is already a fact; thus, it is unshakable. In Europe during the Middle Ages, there existed examples of works that expressed visions in the form of a beam of light. That is, the light was an actual existence that approached from heaven to earth. Therefore, a vision is much more than just an illusion.

The solid support that Tomioka creates from a panel pasted with cotton canvas clearly demonstrates that she does not consider the expression of light to be something that expresses faint, ephemeral feelings, which would remind one of transparent watercolors. In order to dismantle the light that would be thought of as unsubstantial, she surprisingly first creates a sense of resistance not unlike that of a wall. She then applies gesso to act as the ground coat and scrapes the surface, using a file to make it smooth. This preliminary preparation is necessary to create a sense of light that is materialistic. But from a different point of view, one could also say that the materialization of her spirit begins from that stage.

With this ground coat in place, the following colors and forms that Tomioka adds serve to confine or draw light into the work. Then, as if on impulse, they begin to dynamically unfold themselves as if they were telling some l'histoire (story/history). However, there is not much use behind arguing for that evolving state from a formalistic viewpoint, since she purely creates colors as colors and forms as forms. It would be more accurate to say that the light that enwraps and penetrates the colors and forms created by Tomioka reminds one of the scenes in the contemporary apocalyptic film “The Matrix.” In this movie, Keanu Reeves plays the lead character, Neo, who is able to enter his enemies' bodies by turning himself into light so that he can terminate them, as if he were ripping them to pieces by emitting light from the inside.  Tomioka's forms possess that same uniquely keen, vigorous characteristic.

Tomioka is a painter who has actualized an extremely spiritual state by overlaying vivid colors, based on greens, blues and yellows, on her gesso undercoating, while also producing an unprecedented sense of transparency and depth. Her artistic style has been consistent, but in her recent works, she has added a new element by using purple, the noblest of colors. Thus, I should point out that viewers can expect to perceive an even higher and more profound story/history from her new paintings.

Though I might have only seen it by chance, when I recently viewed her work, the surface plane looked more uneven or conveyed a stronger sense of distance compared to her former ” wall-like” sense of light. This resulted in creating a tranquil spot in her work, which could be likened to a campsite that is set halfway up a precipice. I cannot help but wonder what the meaning is behind that implication. I cannot yet give a sufficient explanation for this, but I can go so far as to say that this small space will visually act as a place for viewers' individual solitary souls to take a rest. What is brought about from that state of repose or deep thoughts for our solitary souls will precisely be the metaphysics of light. Naoko Tomioka would then be the priest-like symbol of that light.

(Professor, Tama Art University/Director, Fuchu Art Museum , 2005)

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The Art of Lucid Light



While there are some painters who synchronize their paintings with the trend of the time, Naoko Tomioka is at the opposite end of such painters. Boldly speaking, there is nothing esoteric in the work of Tomioka, winner of the Encouragement Prize of the VOCA Exhibition in 1996. Her works,  which are filled with crystal-clear “light," will immediately surprise and amaze viewers with their quality. Her individual style no doubt stands out from many other artists whose works are comparable in similarity or relevance.

Tomioka uses a gesso undercoating and overlays various acrylics as her major medium. The permeating gradation and brilliant lucidity are effective, thanks to the main characteristic of acrylic. And, the composition of colors makes us feel natural flexibility, rather than logical consideration. “A sense of engraving, rather than drawing, may be more proper for my work. While painting, I start to feel as if the colors and shapes have already been there before. I cannot stop working until I feel them emerge," says Tomioka.

Her paintings remind us of works of classic or folk subjects by Redon or Kandinsky in representing hidden divinity or saints' auras, though the expressive manners may be completely different. “I hope that my work draws the viewers' light from their inner darkness, and offers a chance to recognize it." It is hoped that her work will present a moment for us to think of a new possibility of painting, which has been long lost since the 20th century.

(Art magazine in Japan “Bien”, 2004)

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Naoko Tomioka Exhibition: Unknown Space beyond Paintings

Natsuko Kusanagi


I didn't know how beautiful the paintings were! This was my frank impression as I stepped into the exhibition space. Displayed were five pieces in total, most of them large. They were titled, for example, as 99-03, etc., giving no information about the details of each work, so viewers only saw vivid colors glittering and dancing on the white-painted ground.

The colors in the work by Naoko Tomioka have no definite shape. What is most evident in this exhibition is that a variety of color areas are shaped like “kamihikoki," the paper airplanes with which Japanese children play. Like the paper planes, the colors cross each other and try to go somewhere. They range widely from cold blues to warm oranges. These colors are blurred with a brush, obtaining a transparency with a depth and vastness and incorporating it into the white canvas. There you sense a soft touch. Facing the bluish pieces, you get a great deal of pure, exciting imagination, and feel as if you were riding on the clouds of her colors flying over the universe with ease. Whereas, facing the orange pieces, you feel secured in a sensation as if surrounded by a forest.

The abstract work by Tomioka lets us strongly feel nature, which evokes in our mind a diverse, unknown space called the universe. This evocation relaxes the viewers' mind. You wonder what unique thing or process is emitting such colors and has an impetuous desire to look into the gaps between them. Such a sense of depth emerges as a phenomenal effect of her two-dimensional work. 

Abstract paintings are apt to be a game of colors, especially those by Japanese artists who are traditionally prominent in the expression of the decorative arts rather than ideas. Sometimes you see paintings with a superficial beauty, like a scarved, beautiful woman lacking an inner quality as a human. That is, of course, not the case with Tomioka’s work. Using colors as a major medium of expression, she attempts to transform her canvases into a nature or universe as a common language to let them speak fluently to viewers. This is my own personal impression, though I believe the impression must be a general one. I do not know whether it comes about from concept or sensitivity. In any case her canvases, as an expression of an idea, are not excessively eloquent. And as an expression of sensitivity, they are dazzlingly beautiful. In this way, they are very exquisite. Artists generally cannot help but face a certain decline of sensitivity and a retrogression of ideas. I wonder if she will struggle against such a difficulty. However I am sure that Tomioka, now in her early thirties, has a bright future ahead of her.

(Art critic/1999)

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Kenji Ishikawa


Transparent, soft colors painted on canvases invite viewers into warmth, like the sun. I have often received such an impression from the work of Naoko Tomioka. In addition to being visually comforting, her works incessantly emit enough light to allow viewers to completely bathe in them.      
The impression of them enriched with the sense of touch no doubt is owed to the transparent colors. They are completely changed from a material or a medium for the depiction of portraits or landscapes into a firm presence themselves which dazzle viewers like an aphrodisiac.
This too, is the case with her recent works, including the one entitled 99-05. Her colors, which were once almost painted all over, are now sectioned off and are floating on the canvas. The contrast between the white spaces and the edges of the fragmented colors naturally makes the difference between them stand out.  
The painted shapes definitely exert even more of a strong impression on the viewers' visual sense. In addition, surfaces are delicately shaded more than before, and impasto is tried in some areas whereas in earlier works; thin layers of paint were more conspicuous.
Needless to say that these new trials have resulted in the refreshing appearances of her canvases, which draw the viewers' attention even more to her work. What the artist consistently has long been trying since her debut in the beginning of '90s is that the emergence of colors will make viewers with visual comfort and lure them into the light of colors.


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Visual Cultural Medium: What We Must Continue To See

Masato Sasaki


While standing in front of Naoko Tomioka’s work, the first thing we feel is a sense of floating. It is a natural phenomenon which is explained via perceptual psychology. The theory suggests that subtle and minute changes in texture on a surface of our surroundings control how we stand or move in an environment. This change of texture is called optical flow, which enables us to easily connect our actions to a visual scene in our surroundings. Tomioka’s work gives an inexperienced flow site to our visual sense. The moment gently folded, cotton-like unfamiliar media intervene between our eyes and the picture plane, we let lose control of our posture. It means that the friction between the soles of our feet and the floor become less, which permits us to move in a more relaxed manner in front of her paintings. We feel as if we are now enveloped by a haze caused by the optical force of the flow site, the power to control our actions weakening in the light. This sense of floating is the fact that the information system connecting light to our visual sense has become irregular, resulting in a slight movement of our body.

The soft surroundings can never continue to exist forever, because various phenomena based on the floating arise around us. We see numerous shapes on a canvas, none of which ever settles into a definite one. Our eyes uneasily try to follow the contours, only to find nothing. Boundaries between shapes are not outlines, but simply outermost edges trying to link up with other edges. A single edge lies simultaneously adjacent to the edges of other shapes. Therefore the shapes, initially appearing to be unrelated to each other, suddenly start to come together rhythmically and allow a larger shape to emerge and dominate most of the canvas area.So too is the case of the depth of colors; subtly different colors come to appear from beneath colors that at first look monochromic; layers of colors were hidden there, including the ground of painted white. Our eyes are not able to detect the phenomenal changes of shapes and colors; by nature, they exist on the surface and happen to move about autonomously.

It is not necessarily that they gradually emerge from the haze and come into clarity as a whole, but it is certain that somewhere on the surface something is always ready to synchronize with our eyes, and one change can cause another. Though we try to capture in our eyes what has emerged and resolve it into a single image on the canvas, soon we realize that the forms do not settle easily into something that is fixed. We only find a breeding ground for visual possibilities. The viewer facing the canvas is surrounded both by haziness and the continuous rhythm of spontaneous formation.  

The surface keeps changing. If it does not often change, we have only to look at the plane occasionally; if the surface changes frequently, we must look at the plane many times. We then notice that our visual sense is essentially systemized to be drawn to the changes. Each time we look at the surface, we realize that it is hard to grasp. We become pleased, on the other hand, we feel regret. Our emotions at such a time are that there is something in her work that makes us believe that once we begin to look, we must keep doing so.

When we encounter something changing, we must continue to be involved with it. This is without a doubt Naoko Tomioka’s main subject. She presents canvases that are ever-evolving and the possibility of continuing to crystallize our vision. These are exactly the properties of light. In this way, it is recognized that Tomioka is an artist who expresses the phenomenon of light itself.

(Professor of Ecological Psychology at Tokyo University)

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The Double Light

"Our lives seem to fade away with our metamorphoses" Rainer Maria Rilke

Kunio Motoe


It is a well known fact that Rilke surprisingly wrote the introduction to the picture book “Mitsou” which was written by Balthus, one of the most unique painters of this century, published as his first book at the age of thirteen and is the story about a cat he loved. There was a kind of spiritual inspiring between Baladine Klossowska, Balthus's mother who was herself a painter, and Rilke, one of the most important poets of this century, which is shown by the series of letters they have left. It goes without saying, Rilke was a poet who favored letters, especially letters to ladies. However, there can be seen no skirt chasing elements in them, and they are full of intuitions about art, the age and the society. For example, in a letter sent to Baladine on the 28th of February, 1921, just after the First World War, Rilke writes as follows about the series of Klee's sketches he had recently seen: "During the several years of war, I often had the impression of just watching objects fade away." This was probably the honest feeling of people who witnessed buildings once thought to be immovable instantly blasted to pieces by powerful explosives in the First World War, the first of all scientific and mechanized wars. He continues, “The shatterd existence will be seeing best expressions in various fragments and remains." The disappearance of objects and the fragmentation of existence; wasn't this the essence of 20th century paintings?

I cannot precisely explain why I recalled Rilke's letters while writing my essay on Tomioka's series of works. I can only say that maybe the very feeling of non-existence within her creations, naturally reminded me of a loss of objects, which in course led me to Rilke. We cannot just simply categorize those works under the label of non-objective paintings, for it does not actually mean that the painting has lost its subject. The painting might not be representative but nevertheless, there is a concreteness to it. In Tomioka's works, such subjectivity is not based on the existence of the thing itself. Rather, it is an expression oriented towards light, or a metaphor of light, in a place where what is called a painting ruled by visual sense, ensures the existence of things as things.

However, this does not mean that her theme is the light which exists universally in the world. There are things or objects, and then through the effect of light, people are able to see them. It is precisely in this relation that works of art are born. To put it in more formal words, Naoko Tomioka's world does not construct objects, but appeals simply to the vision and/or perception, which can to this point be referred as phenomenological. Her solo exhibition at NICOS Gallery (Hongoh, Tokyo) in 1993 was titled “Floating Things". But what I want people to understand is that what floats are not things or objects. What floats are rather the existence of the viewers who are made as witnesses with light to her the world.

"Floating Ones"---there cannot be any better word to describe the character of Naoko Tomioka's works. Her works are made on pure white backgrounds and assembled by layers of semi - transparent greenish colors resembling fragments of light, and they seem constantly to flow unstably, trying to show the world as an inner space of certain integrity but not revealing the whole of it. However, that does not mean that it is only a part of the world. A part and fragment are essentially different dimensions. A part is only a part of the whole. As we often say about the matching of part and whole, such consistency is essential to the part-whole relation. On the other hand, fragments are rather the trace of the whole, and they essentially lack unity. Therefore all fragments are longing for the world or the whole. The whole, could be said to be the home of fragments. The real reason why Rilke emphasized fragments of shattered existence lies here.

In confronting Naoko Tomioka's works, viewers will feel like a poet taking a walk in fresh green woods in sunlight. The light is always changing, and no one knows when the wind blows; all that the world shows us is always only the beautiful fragments. And such moments are actually the secret of her works. At her solo exhibition presently held at Galleria Chimera, sunlight pours in from the large window facing the terrace, and this outer light synchronizes with the inner light of her works, at the same time revealing the hidden shades within them. True, there is a kind of darkness in Naoko Tomioka's world. And it awakes the accumulated memory of light inside the viewer’s mind as a special darkness. The outer light is not everything of the world. Naoko Tomioka says the following: "We sometimes cannot recognize our existence even under the mid-day sun.” This is so true. Unless viewers take hold of the inner light contending the outer light, i.e. “light in the vision of the viewer's own darkness ", they will never be able to grasp their own existence. Being embraced by the light and dark, or rather the double light of Naoko Tomioka, viewers at last become viewers.

(Curator, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo / 1995)

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