Two new books by Takashi Homma, Trails and First Jay Comes, present a departure from his usual concentration on the urban and suburban world. The work, photographs and some paintings, concentrate on three basic components; snow, forest, and blood. Described with simply a few lines and contrast of color, these undeniably beautiful works sit in each book with very different tenor.
The more known of the two is from Hassla Books, First, Jay Comes. This small 5x7 inch, 24 page booklet includes more paintings than photographs. The cover, a photograph of mostly virgin snowfall despoiled by a few dark specks of red and perhaps a footprint of crushed snow. The evidence of violence remaining visible in the stillness of the natural world.
Homma's paintings follow in the traditional simple single brush-stroke tradition of sumi-e with their sparse, abstraction which gives but a suggestion of the content that is immediately grasped. The paint, especially the red and the slashing gestures with which it was applied, suggest more of an aggressive violence; speckles of blood turning into great smears of crimson.
The book's center photograph (there are only three in this booklet) depicts the scene that might have inspired the paintings, trampled snow and twigs and a center pool of blood that has seeped or been spread into the surrounding snow. Where as the other two images describe blood trailings of something bleeding being carried or dragged through the forest, this image seems to be the site of the attack.
The title, First, Jay Comes is as ambiguous and as harmonious as the work itself. As a book this Hassla edition is good but feels a bit unsubstantial and perhaps due to the paper stock it seems to clash a little with the content. That said, this edition is easiest to get and is only $12.00. First, Jay Comes was published in an edition of 500.
Takashi Homma's Trails from Match and Company in Japan is harder to get a hold of due to the difficulty in paying them but worth the extra effort and cost.
This is a much larger and altogether different take on this work. At approximately 11 x 12 inches and in combination with the beautiful OK Muse Gulliver Shiromono paper this feels like an actual fully realized work.
Trails opens to an image of mostly virgin snow speckled with a bit of frozen blood but acts as a moment of foreshadowing as the following three images have us venturing deeper into the forest and discovering animal tracks left in the snow. It is several images in that we pick up the fading blood trail and follow it to the source. The images are deeply tinted cyan which gives a cold, silent feeling and the blood an odd unrealistic hue which for me makes them less aggressive. Whatever has taken place and whether the act was made by man on animal or animal on animal, the harmony seems to be relating to the cycles of a food chain than with acts made out of anger.
As a book Trails is simply beautiful in its printing and design. Clean and simple, it has two gatefolds which reveal more photographs among the 24 pages. The cover plate is one of Homma's brush paintings and avoids announcing this as a photobook. This was published in a an edition of 700 and although the money transfer and shipping will greatly increase the cost, in Japan this book is only the equivalent of $21.00.