Saeki sees himself first and foremost as an entertainer. An avid watcher of jidaigeki
samurai films and Yakuza B-movies (thrillers about Japanese organized crime) from an early age, he grew up watching scenes of
and gore that were intended to make the viewer laugh as much as wince (which is still commonplace in Japanese cinema today). A fascination with these films is evident in Saeki’s work.
Remarkably though, Saeki doesn’t draw from source imagery, nor models. Instead, his imagery is primarily inspired by visions, dreams, and recollections buried deep in his mind—which has led some critics to refer to the artist as a “conjurer.” But there are elements of Japanese culture present in the works, from interior design and textile patterns, to folkloric characters, Shinto spirits, and references to popular stories. His world is a hybrid terrain of the living, dead, and fictionalized.
“The phantoms have no meaning in themselves, but they should never fail to be powerfully suggestive,” Saeki says of the spectral beings in his works. “Please try to find your essence in them,” he beckons.
While Saeki has been exhibited in the West since 1970—in the decades following his first solo in Paris, he would be shown in San Francisco, London, Tel Aviv, and Toronto—more recently, Asian audiences have registered renewed interest in the artist. His work was presented the artist at Art Basel in Hong Kong last month, and in December 2016 there was an exhibition of his work in Taipei at Jiu Xiang Ju Gallery, which proved that Saeki’s audience is evolving.