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An End Is a Beginning
Deutsche Bank Supports the Tomoko Yoneda Show at the Hara Museum

Tomoko Yoneda, London, September 2008
Photo: Dominik Gigler

Tomoko Yoneda's art investigates collective memory. Whether the Japanese artist photographs former battlefields or abandoned apartments-Yoneda's photographs always articulate the tension between the represented motif and its history. Now, the Hara Museum in Tokyo is giving the London-based artist her first major exhibition.

Forest - Location of the Batle of Somme,
Delville Wood, France, 2002,
from: Scene,
© Tomoko Yoneda, Courtesy Shugo Arts

A pristine wooded landscape, a summer beach scene dotted with bathers, a river with a small boat sailing along it-at first, the motifs in Tomoko Yoneda's series Scenes do not seem particularly spectacular. But the titles add a layer of meaning to the photographic works that references historical and political events while infusing the images with emotional tension. In Forest (Location of the Battle of the Somme, Delville Wood, France) from 2000, the 1965-born Japanese artist portrays the setting of what was probably the bloodiest battle of the First World War, with over a million dead, wounded, and missing soldiers. The devastated landscape has since been overgrown by woodland. In Beach (Location of the D-Day Normandy Landings, Sword Beach, France) (2002), nothing on the beach checkered with bathing towels ostensibly recalls the dramatic events on June 6, 1944, the day Allied troops landed. Sun worshippers lie on their towels on the very ground where soldiers were once engaged in deadly battle.

Wedding - View of the wedding party on the river
that divides North Korea and China, Dandong, China, 2007,
from: Scene,
©Tomoko Yoneda, Courtesy Shugo Arts

Yoneda also depicts a volatile region in Wedding-View of the wedding party on the river that divides North Korea and China, Dandong, China (2007). Armed conflict and escape attempts occur frequently along the border between North Korea and China. Again and again, Yoneda creates a tension between the represented motif and the historical reality that lies behind it. The works' titles function as catalysts to evoke new, vivid images that starkly alter the viewer's perspective on the apparently innocuous landscapes.

Lovers, Dunaujvaros (formerly Stalin City) Hungary, 2004,
from: After the Thaw,
© Tomoko Yoneda, Courtesy Shugo Arts

With Tomoko Yoneda-An End Is a Beginning, the art photographer presents her first major retrospective at the Hara Museum in Tokyo. The show, sponsored by Deutsche Bank, features approximately 50 works from Yoneda's most important series: Between Visible and Invisible, Scene, After the Thaw, and Topographical Analogy. In a premiere, the museum also shows the London-based artist's latest works, shown in 2007 at the 10th Istanbul Biennial and in Robert Storr's Venice Biennale exhibition Think With the Senses-Feel With the Mind.

Freud's Glasses - Viewing a text by Jung II, 1998,
from: Between Visible and Invisible,
© Tomoko Yoneda, Courtesy Shugo Arts

The black and white images of Between Visible and Invisible were made from 1999 to 2003. For the most part, they depict texts and letters by influential writers, architects, scientists, and politicians of the twentieth century-James Joyce, Gandhi, Tanizaki, Le Corbusier. Yoneda's camera gazes upon a work that was of key importance for these intellectual heroes through the very eyeglasses they once wore. Only the part that can be seen through the lens is legible, while the rest remains blurry. Le Corbusier's Glasses-Viewing L'Habitation Moderne, his plan for a new architectural vision of Paris (2003) shows the architect's notes on one of the most important projects of architectural modernism. In Freud's Glasses-Viewing a text by Jung II (2003), the father of psychoanalysis gazes at an essay by his colleague C. G. Jung, with whom he was connected by a long, conflict-ridden relationship. This work also addresses a chapter in 20th-century history: while Freud emigrated to London following the invasion of Austria by German troops in 1938, Jung's role throughout the Nazi era remains highly controversial. Yoneda's work continually explores western culture and history. This interest originally led her to study photography at the University of Illinois in Chicago and at the Royal College of Arts in London.

Sniper View - View from Christian sniper position
overlooking no man's land, Beirut, 2004,
from: Scene,
© Tomoko Yoneda, Courtesy Shugo Arts

Between Visible and Invisible, the title of this series seems programmatic for the photographer's entire oeuvre. Yoneda's work defies any one unequivocal interpretation. These are photographs in which a single picture has the power to invoke an entire film.

Tomoko Yoneda-An End Is a Beginning
September 12-November 30, 2008
Hara Museum, Tokyo

Achim Drucks

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