Today we can look back and see the huge impact that this painting has had on successive waves of innovation in Western painting. In fact, we can state beyond reasonable doubt that this woodcut print from the "Ukiyo-e" or "pictures of the floating world" period in Japanese cultural history is the precursor to the "Pop" art "inclination," which first appeared in Paul Gaugin's "Brittany" paintings, Seurat's pointillist masterpieces then "Art Nouveau" then via the Fauves and Matisse, proto-popists Charles Demuth and Stuart Davis via the Abstract Expressionism of the New York school, through Jasper Johns and Robert Raschenberg and culminating in the work of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana in the early 60's. It takes little imagination to see the influence of this style on painting in the West. Today, we can pretty confidently say that Pop and Surrealism are the two dominant modes of perception in contemporary art production with "Pop" almost the pre-eminent descendent of "36 views!"
"Surfer Girl" by Yoshio Okada is an attempt to update Hokusai's warning. The artist depicts a young female surfer out for fun but suddenly caught in a tube so overwhelming as to provoke panic and fear and maybe even her death. The terrified look on her face rivets our attention and contrasts powerfully with her supple, youthful body bent supine, suddenly aware of her precarious situation. If you've ever had the opportunity to go surfing and suddenly got caught in watery conditions way beyond your ability to handle, you'd understand this girls panicky realisation of what comes next. It's a bone grinding, gut wrenching and lung searing roller coaster tumble as the brute force of the wave rips and tears at your body. If you're lucky you'll make it back to the surface and live to tell the tale of what might have been! The second image by an anonymous artist has morphed the great wave into a slapstick "Pokemon" less threatening than comedic although the intention is clear. Japanese commercial imperialism, a giant wave of consumer goods via electronics, animated characters and "pop" culture became the catchword during the 70's and 80's although a more or less spent force these days as other Asian waves flowing out of China and Korea supplant its global power and influence.