Toshio Saeki died few days ago and pretty much everything has been written for him. The controversial art of the “Godfather of Japanese Erotica” was –and still is- a constant topic for discussion and criticism. He first became famous during 70s and since then earned more and more fans worldwide.
There are many adjectives that someone could use in order to describe Saeki’s art: gore, paranormal, unusual, and maybe disturbing. Saeki’s art is definitely not for everyone, and especially not for the basic western audience. Erotic horror is a kind of art which is not widely popular, but Saeki wasn’t “just another erotic horror artist”, Saeki sketched very deepest fantasies of ours even if we don’t (want to) know how they look like. The Japanese artist depicted a delusional mix of our wet dreams and nightmares in a unique way. Sex with elements of violence and humor, even death, as it is in real life most of the times, is his main theme. He liberally reworked and sexualized figures both existing and mythical. His drawings are free of moralization and his surreal approach of sexual taboos leads inevitably to the top level of sexual liberation. Every Saeki’s piece of art is a spectrum of feelings; something complicated which unlocked different parts of our mind and body, parts which at first look incompatible, but they are actually inseparable.
The “Godfather of Japanese Erotica” allowed us to become partakers of the Japanese culture through his gaze. Japanese folklore was his raw material, he combined it with his memories as a child and interspersed it with his experiences in the field of BDSM magazines and we got this aesthetic result. In his work, we find tied girls, snakes, samurais, even member of Yakuza. The totality of Japanese tradition has been filtered through his avant garde ink. His influence from both “Shunga” (= Japanese erotic art, usually executed in woodblock print format during Edo period) and the stories with Yokai (=monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore) is obvious, while he preferred a postmodern, pop art depiction of this themes. Saeki’s art could also align with the “ero guro” movement. “Ero guro” is a Japanese term – combination of the words ero(tic) and guro (from grotesque) for an artistic genre focused on eroticism, sexual corruption, and decadence. This contemporary, radical version of “Shunga” is a chance for the western observers to communicate with a part of the Japanese erotic tradition.
Toshio Saeki had once said that “Beauty without Poison is Boring” and his art definitely is not boring. His “poisonous beauty” left its pin on the map of erotic art. Toshio Saeki took our erotic fantasies in their most primitive version, depicted them with his unique technique and gave them back to us free of moral restrictions. This is Toshio Saeki’s heritage.