Three works by Takashi Tomo-oka (from left): “Magnolia,” 2011. Digital photograph printed on washi and mounted on scroll. Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery. © Takashi Tomo-oka; “Lotus 3,” 2011. Digital photograph printed on washi and mounted on scroll. Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery. © Takashi Tomo-oka; “Dahlia,” 2010. Digital photograph printed on washi and mounted on scroll. Courtesy of Ippodo Gallery. © Takashi Tomo-oka

PASADENA —  Pacific Asia Museum presents a new exhibition, “Takashi Tomo-oka,” in the Focus Gallery from April 19 through July 28.

This is the first in a year-long series of contemporary Asian art exhibitions in this gallery.

“Takashi Tomo-oka” features six scroll-mounted photographic works that combine the classical and contemporary. As a young artist, Tomo-oka became interested in nihonga (neo-traditional Japanese painting) but was drawn to photography, adopting the digital camera as his medium rather than a brush.

Tomo-oka eliminates all extraneous visual information other than the subject itself—vegetal forms such as maples and dahlias. The resulting images display a sensibility similar to that of the Rimpa school’s nature studies in the 18th century, but replacing their gold leaf with stark white backgrounds.

Each work is the result of careful study of the plant forms, including structure and color as well as their ephemerality. These spare compositions are digitally printed on handmade washi paper and mounted in scroll format, further blurring the divide between his painterly sensibilities and digital methods.

“Tomo-oka’s works demonstrate the dynamic of technology energizing art traditions and carrying them forward in new and innovative ways,” said Curator Bridget Bray.

Born in Kyoto Prefecture in 1971 to a basket weaver and a dressmaker, Tomo-oka developed a keen eye for the diversity of the natural world at an early age while accompanying his father on field trips to gather bamboo for baskets. While living in the Kyoto area, which had long been an imperial capital of Japan, he was exposed to highly refined Japanese art forms.

He later worked as a landscape gardener and gained access to famous temple complexes such as Byōdō-in and Ryōan-ji. This allowed him to incorporate first-hand experience of classical garden design and the paintings and other objects in the temple collections in his work.

These life experiences created a unique perspective, richly grounded in the traditional arts of Japan, which dovetailed with the formal training he received as a painter at Kyoto Seika University.

Tomo-oka lives and works in Tokyo, and had his first solo exhibition in the U.S. in New York in 2012. This will be his first exhibition in an American museum and first appearance on the West Coast.

“Takashi Tomo-oka” is on view concurrently with the exhibitions “The Garden in Asia” and “Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection,” allowing the visitor to reference the traditional nature paintings and Japanese art that have influenced Tomo-oka throughout his career. Related programs will include an installment of Fusion Fridays and Art and Coffee, as well as a curator’s tour.

Pacific Asia Museum is located at 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 general, $7 students/seniors, and free for museum members and children under 12. Admission is free every fourth Friday of the month. For more information, visit or call (626) 449-2742.

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