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Friday 17 June 2011

Mitchell's A-Z of Fetish Artists - Okawa

I cannot talk about Okawa's art without observing that it is unmistakeably Japanese. The delicacy of style and colouring has some kinship to modern day Kimura, but unlike that artist there is absolutely no westernisation of the faces, or the clothing (Okawa often uses traditional loincloths and headbands) or the settings, which feature pine trees and even cherry blossom!

Okawa 031 Snowbound (N.B. all titles are mine)

From a fetish point of view the most interesting manifestation of these influences are the pictures where the captive is left outside exposed to the elements - rain, snow, the sea etc. I can't think of any other artist who has explored this theme so interestingly. Of course depicting water in it's various forms presents technical challenges but Okawa acquits himself well. 

Okawa 04 Shipbound

There is one exception to the 'Westernisation' discussion , at one point in his career Okawa seems to have been influenced by Tom of Finland whose bikers in leather jackets (above) and tight jeans with turn-ups start to appear in the supporting cast. Okawa captives are transplanted into Tom-like settings and even the drawing style echoes Tom. I'm cautious about the authenticity of these drawings but it's an interesting group.

Okawa 51L Treetied

Generally speaking Okawa's captives are not naked, in accordance with the mores of the time, but he usually skillfully fills the boy's loincloths with erotic bulges, sometimes accentuated and enhanced by carefully placed bindings (see other pictures in this article). 
The example of frontal nudity above is almost unique in my collection (a few other images I have appear to have been censored) and the stretched, beautifully depicted genitals show what we have missed out on. The suspended victim and his beating with a stave are typical Okawa themes and leave us wondering if this is austere family discipline, military - or something more sinister. Okawa doesn't shrink from violence and some pictures show the bloody aftermath, but it's not gory.

Many of his young men (as here) are characterised with soft, slightly fleshy, almost feminine faces and while this is absolutely authentic, for me personally it is less erotically appealing than, say, Hasegawa's leaner look or Tagame's brutal looking protagonists, which stand at the other end of the facial spectrum. In this picture the cropped hair helps and I must admit, that I do like fleshiness in the body styling. I shouldn't leave this picture without pointing out the graceful leg lines and well-drawn feet.

Okawa 05b Crucified

The same characteristics can be seen in the 'crucifixion' image. In this picture the skillful use of lighting and perspective stand out, but don't miss the complex rope patterns and securing nuts which are clearly and convincingly captured. I love the hairy legs too. The triangular wedge between the victims legs is perhaps an over-enthusiastic elaboration. It produces a nice division of the testicles but I suspect the victim is too well supported to feel it's full divisive effect.

Okawa 31L - Tied and Beaten

At the end of the day Okawa is a bondage artist and the final image exemplifies this. Even today, in an era awash with male bondage imagery, it is simply stunning in it's quality, beauty and impact. The rope tethering the victim to a nearby tree or post greatly increases the psychological effect.

Okawa is one of the great fetish artists.

There's a decent selection of Okawa's work at Japanese Gay Art (Mar 2018)
I believe there are books available and Google will throw up more examples.
For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below.

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