The Beautiful Syncretism of Tatsuo Horiuchi: A Introspection On Progressive & Purest Artists & Their Failings

Kaiga (絵画) or Japanese painting is among the oldest of the Land of the Rising Sun’s visual arts and has had a tremendous impact upon both Japanese culture as well as the artistic culture of The West. There are many different variations and permutations to Kaiga, however, the most well known variant, Sumi-e, was traditionally created via ink and brush on washi (hand processed Japanese paper, tougher than mechanically processed paper which is made from local materials).

However, one man has taken the traditional style of Japanese painting and merged it with modern technology in both a technically impressive and aesthetically pleasing fashion. His name is Tatsuo Horiuchi, a 77 year old painter from Nagano, Japan. After retiring, Mr. Horiuchi decided that he wished to spend his waning years painting but was possessed of both a shrewd and experimental mind and thus decided that traditional methods of brush, oil, ink and canvas were far to messy and, more crucially, expensive, so he set himself to discovering how he could “paint” with his computer. Whilst there are no shortage of art creation programs, they are, just like traditional methods, extremely expensive (although generally cheaper in the long run). Thus he decided to simply use a program which was already installed on his computer.

Microsoft Excel.

Yume no Ura (A 
view from Cherry Blossoms and the Oiseiro) Cherry blossom and the superb view from the veranda of Taichoro / Hukuzenji temple at Tomomachi in Hukuyama.

Whilst Microsoft Excel is generally utilized for business purposes, such a spreadsheet graphs for presentations. Mr. Horiuchi, in a recent interview for Colossal Magazine, stated that little by little, he figured out how to both layer, shade and colorize the images with a extremely high degree of precision. This precision (which in his old age would have been rather difficult to achieve with a brush and ink) combined with the ability to print out any number of the same image and the lack of need for paint mixing (a lengthy and expensive process) made him choose the medium.

Snow’s Okura (Intermontane river in snow).

The majority of Mr. Horiuchi’s painting focus on the beauty of Japan, primarily it’s mythic landscapes, though he also, occasionally turns his eye toward rural life in the island nation as well.

A child who delights in the sunrise cold early in the morning

It is a difficult thing, to properly navigate the realms of the artistic Purest and the artistic Progressive. The devout Purest – the pure Purest, if you will – raises all art from a particular time and place upon a pedestal and denigrates all others. This strain of thought is particularly apparent in Classicist circles wherein modern music is considered bad because it utilizes computers which makes the music “inauthentic” or “inorganic.” Yet when asked why computer programs are somehow more inauthentic or inorganic than, say, a violin or a trumpet, you will more likely than not be met with silence. The Purest problem lies in it’s complete and utter inability to change, for in refusing to change one refuses to adapt. Whether in art or politics the inability to adapt to change is paramount to suicide. No army brandishing sticks and stones and sheets of bark as shields, however well trained, can hope to best a modern militarized platoon equipped with Twaron and Kevlar body-armor who carrying M16 5.56 caliber rifles nor can any artist, no matter how “pure” his traditional artistic methods, capture the attention and imagination of his compatriots if he does not attune his style to the frequency of his world’s own bio-hum, to hear it’s spirit and feel the vibrations of it’s essence.

Odori & Momiji.

Whereas the Purest fails because he cannot change, the Progressive artist fails because all he can do is change. In constantly seeking “originality” he ends up viewing originality itself as the highest aim for art which births one of the greatest problems in modern art: The pursuit of originality for originality’s sake. So chaotic is the mind of the Progressive artist that he cannot moor himself to ANY values concurrent with his social milieu and thus he abandons the pursuit of value entirely and instead focuses on novelty. Such works are as quickly forgotten as they are produced (how many pop songs can you recite in whole or part after a single listening? My assumption would be very few – and how many of them would you really go out of your way to play again?).

Mr. Horiuchi deftly weaves together both the traditional style of his people and the modernist technology of The West to form a beautiful synchronicity that dodges the pitfalls of the Purest or the Progressive. From thrift and dedication, a simple but timeless and idyllic idealization of the Land of the Rising Sun in it’s most resplendent serendipity. A echoing reflection of national pride. Confident and content in one’s placing without waxing braggadocios.


One thought on “The Beautiful Syncretism of Tatsuo Horiuchi: A Introspection On Progressive & Purest Artists & Their Failings

  1. I just saw a video of this artist a few days ago, but it didn’t showcase the work so much as the technical marvel of it.

    This shows the paintings better.

    I grew up with oriental art and have collected some Japanese woodblock prints myself. These Excel paintings would make a fine translation to woodblock, I think. (Hmm, one might even try laser cutting the blocks.)

    If it weren’t for computers and music programs, I could not have written two thirds of the music I have. If you have no access to an orchestra, how can one write a symphony today? I need to hear the work out loud and “hear” my mistakes. I can’t hear it in my head and then just compose it. I don’t have that synaesthetic gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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