Art Stage Singapore 2017: Sai Hashizume – Beautiful Stranger

Three of Japanese artist Sai Hashizume’s works were for sale at Art Stage Singapore 2017, but it was actually the book titled Beautiful Stranger that intrigued based on its retrospective of the artist, concentrating heavily between the years 2000 to 2010.  One can see the metamorphosis in particular the latter portion of those years, when she lived full time in Berlin and Paris.  This is when Hashizume makes a transition from placing the viewer as a casual observer of more traditional oil paintings to an uncomfortable near-participant in what have become her signature works: hyperreal pieces resembling photography.


In fact, the paintings are so disarmingly realistic that it is quite difficult to tell even close up that they are not photos. Young women remain Hashizume’s focus, but one never sees their eyes, hence the reference to the word “stranger” in the title. Since they are often obscured by details such as shiny bangs, this forces the viewer to focus on other aspects of these subjects, such as clothing and accessories that one would often find out on the streets of Tokyo, or other provocative details symbolizing life and death – fruit, blood and flowers being just a few of these.


An example of this is Red Session, which graces one of two different covers of the book. Here, a woman is lightly grasping the finger of another who is blindfolded with lace. What are they up to? What is their next move? The pile of objects by their side point instead to a more sinister setting, with clues such as an apple, an overturned wine glass and a raspberry pastry yet to be eaten.


Another is Toilette des filles 2, which was on display at Art Stage Singapore.  One woman appears to be helping a friend try on some potential clothing purchases in a changing room.  Or is the situation more than what the eye can see?  After all, the friend is wearing blood red pantyhose, whereas the woman tying the back of her skirt is more than aware that someone is watching their every move.  The book version of this and other works magnify these details, presenting not just the paintings in full but also close-ups of certain aspects, therefore forcing further introspection.


Sai Hashizume’s Beautiful Stranger is available on