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Toshio Saeki

Born 1945, Miyazaki prefecture, Japan. “Eshi (one who draws.)”

Raised in Osaka since 4 years of age, engrossed in drawing and playing games with other children, often being the center of attention with his hand-made kamishibai (picture-cards story telling) and his natural talent as“entertainer.”

Enters the Western Painting Department of Kyoto Municipal Hiyoshigaoka High School Art Program (the current Doda Fine and Applied Arts High School) in 1960, and studies plaster sketching and oil painting. It was at this time that he was given the nickname, “Eshi” as he often answered requests from his friends to draw shunga (Japanese erotic drawings.)

Started working at a design firm in Osaka in 1963 and learns the newly introduced technique of graphic design, but quits after 3 years to make a trip overseas, visiting the Soviet Union, Europe, Middle East, and Southeast Asia on a limited budget.

Moves to Tokyo in 1969, seeking a place to express himself.

Shuts himself away inside a tiny apartment to seek his own creative style. Comes up with a peculiar original form of expression just before he completely ran out of energy, and it gathers attention of notable artists and writers of time such as Shuji Terayama, Tatsuhiko Shibusawa, and Rokusuke Ei, and makes a debut on the Heibon Punch magazine. After publishing his first book, Saeki Toshio Gashu (Drawings by Toshio Saeki), has a solo exhibit in Paris of the drawings from the book, but ends up having all the artworks stolen.

Was active both within and outside Japan ever since. In 1972, his work appears on the album jacket of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album, Sometime in New York City. In 1979, has his work made into animation by French production company, Argos Films, and wins Best Short Film at the César Awards. Was also given the title, “Erotic Engineer” by Timothy Leary in the preface to his book Chimushi 2 (Dimensia Insects 2) in 1996.

Combining the post war Japanese popular culture of his youth, pop art, and his own sophisticated aesthetics; created a colorful and sensational world of eros, humor, and horror to mischievously provoke and enchant the observer by breaking all sexual taboos. Yet his works go beyond just being erotic depictions by presenting new interpretation of love, desire and gender roles.

His drawings were created by using an original method called “chinto printing” which is much like the Ukiyoe style where the “eshi” draws the art and the “surishi” prints it. Saeki as eshi would draw the work and specify the colors, and his surishi would print them. Thus, his original works are mostly line drawings, and the work becomes a colored complete piece only after they are printed. This technique emphasizes the "flatness" composed of "lines" and "colored surfaces," and gives the work a unique character.

In recent years, Saeki has had exhibits in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Toronto, Japan, Taipei, etc., all of them being received with much critical acclaim. Perhaps this is because his works have very Japanese settings, but at the same time, holds the powerful effect to destroy all preconceived ideas and values, and shows the observers what is real and hidden within themselves. This is what makes his works universal.

Saeki spent his later years in the mountains of Chiba prefecture, drawing, reading, enjoying ikebana of wildflowers; treasuring and loving the activities of everyday life with his wife.

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