Words and pictures meld into one in the works of TOMIZUKA Yoshimitsu. Crammed into every gap between them, a variety of colors appears to overflow the confines of the paper. We stepped into the world of Tomizuka’s mysterious stories, created by the interweave of truth and fiction.
(Date updated)16 March, 2022
This article is a translated version, which was originally published in Japanese language on 20 August, 2021.
Tales emerging from the gap between truth and fiction.
Drawn here are words, pictures, colors.
These elements come together as one and seem to press in on the viewer in a style that is reportedly the unique invention of Tomizuka, a member of
〈Atelier Suzukake〉 (Hyogo Prefecture).
Tomizuka’s drawings and paintings take their principal themes from his memories. Fiction is added to the mix and the resulting combination is output on paper in a steady stream of Japanese characters and drawings. Tomizuka positions words here and there on the page in a reading order to which only he has the key, the tightly packed characters running into one another and becoming unreadable in some cases. He then adds color to these preliminary sketches, with his light touch as he carefully “places color,” as opposed to simply “coloring in,” another unique feature of his pieces. His finished works are crammed with words, drawings, and colors.
“Tomizuka-san’s entire life is oriented toward drawing. He takes the ‘memory note pictures’ that he uses to regularly record happenings in his daily life and memories from his youth and sticks them up in his room, seemingly considering potential texts. When he comes to the studio, he brings his sketchbook and jumps right into scribbling away on an open page. I think he already has whatever story he needs to draw fully formed within himself,” says
〈Atelier Suzukake〉 staff member MISU Kaori.
As I mentioned above, it is difficult to follow the thread of the Japanese characters that spell out Tomizuka’s stories. With viewers unable to decipher the tales from his pieces, Misu accompanies him as he works, listening to the stories that he tells and writing them down.
“Tomizuka-san keeps a close watch how the people around him are reacting.If we get a good rapport going when I’m sitting next to him listening to his story, his tale will quickly take off. I have fun with that, and I think maybe Tomizuka-san does too.”
Tomizuka’s overflowing world
Tomizuka creates stories in a variety of configurations, including an enormous work in the form of a scroll bringing together a series of stories and totaling eight meters in length. Its title is
《Meikyokugeinin—Location Variety—One-Man Show—Robotic—Tale of the Faraway Eternal Galaxy King》! Of course, this quite spectacular title is also the work of Tomizuka. He has many other works with titles to fire our imaginations in this “Tomizuka style,” including 《Cheerful Story Righteous Man: the Little Bird’s Inn》 and 《The Highway of History & the International Election + the International Rehabilitation Athletic Meet—Dream Flying—Dream Travelogue—Tale of Dream Romantic King, Part I》
Humanity’s original form of “story-crafting”?
The Tomizuka of today has brought numerous stories into the world, but when he first began drawing, he was only interested in faithfully preserving the truth. Reportedly, fiction gradually began to mingle with reality in his works around 16 years ago.
〈Atelier Suzukake〉 founder and picture book author HATA Yoshiko discusses this shift in the brochure for the solo exhibition ‘TOMIZUKA Yoshimitsu: Memory of a Storyteller,’ which was held at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in July 2021.
“Did he, who stuck so persistently to nothing but the truth and his own memory, who never told a lie, who was honest to a fault—did he find that a ‘made-up story’ had slipped in through a gap in his memory and wake up to its appeal? Maybe he became aware of the true nature of memory: the fact that it is actually something that he can rewrite at any time. It’s like we’re looking at humanity’s original form of ‘story-crafting,’ and it’s truly fascinating.”
Tomizuka’s “story-crafting” shows no signs of stopping.
All photographs featuring Tomizuka were provided by Atelier Suzukake.
(Profile of TOMIZUKA Yoshimitsu)
Tomizuka was born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1958. He has been engaged in creative activities at the 〈Suzukake Art Club〉 in the city of Nishinomiya since around 1993. He draws stories and illustrations that combine his own memories with creative work on newspaper and washi. His works form part of various collections, including Collection d'Art Brut in Lausanne and that of The Nippon Foundation. The solo exhibition ‘TOMIZUKA Yoshimitsu: Memory of a Storyteller’ was held at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in July 2021.