Tomoko Yoneda Biography

Contemporary Japanese photographer Tomoko Yoneda is concerned with landscapes, buildings, people, objects, and sites that are associated with events of the past century. A sense of calm and tranquillity permeates Yoneda's works, despite the often brutal and contested histories of their subjects.

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Early Years

Yoneda first studied photography at the University of Illinois, Chicago, graduating in 1989. She then went on to receive an MA from the Royal College of Art, London in 1991 and has been based in London since.

Tomoko Yoneda Artworks

Working with both colour and black-and-white photography, Tomoko Yoneda examines the themes of selfhood, identity, and memory in works revolving around historical sites of conflict.

Memory

Yoneda's concern with traces of the past is evident in 'Topographical Analogies' (1996), a series of black-and-white photographs that portray marks left on wallpaper by previous inhabitants. While devoid of human figures, the images are suggestive of corporeal presence in the traces on worn wallpaper.

In 'Between Visible and Invisible', ongoing since 1998, Yoneda engages with temporal spaces by taking photographs through the lenses of spectacles once worn by well-known historical figures. These have included Sigmund Freud, Le Corbusier, Junichiro Tanizaki, and Mahatma Gandhi, with resulting works focusing on a small section of a document shot through a single glasses lens, while the rest of the image remains blurry. Playing with the boundaries of visibility and invisibility, Yoneda alludes to her figures' private, internal thoughts.

Scene

In the ongoing series 'Scene', begun in 2000, Yoneda examines history as embodied in the environment, both urban and natural. Balanced and peaceful compositions characterise the photographs belonging to the series, while the titles reveal their conflicted histories.

A green field under a cloudy sky in Sports Field (2000), for example, is followed by the subtitle Formerly a Japanese Air Force Airfield, Where the Last Kamikaze Mission Took Off, Chiran, Japan, while the misty Seascape (2002), tinged in pale purple, is subtitled with Location CIA Backed Troops Landed in an Attempt to Start a Counter-Revolution Against Castro's Government, Bay of Pigs, Cuba.

Japan

Between 2009 and 2015, Yoneda focused on the legacy of imperialism in Japan and its neighbouring countries in the five series titled 'Kimusa' (2009); 'Japanese House' (2010); 'Cumulus' (2011–2012); 'The Island of Sakhalin' (2013); and 'DMZ' (2015). The essays of Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, who has addressed Japan's imperialist past and philosophical and social issues, has been cited as providing the impetus for Yoneda's work.

Architecture as symbols of authority is a key concern in 'Kimusa' and 'Japanese House', which respectively capture buildings in South Korea and Taiwan. Kimusa, a former military hospital that then became the headquarters of South Korea's Defense Security Command, was the site of alleged torture of protesters and political dissidents during the military regime; Yoneda photographed shuttered windows and high walls from the inside, conveying an atmosphere of claustrophobic isolation. In 'Japanese House', Yoneda concentrates on what remains of the houses built in Taiwan under Japanese occupation.

Dialogue with Albert Camus

Inspired by 'Neither Victims nor Executioners' (1946), a series of essays by Algerian-born French philosopher Albert Camus, Yoneda embarked on a project visiting significant places in Camus' life from Algeria to France in 2017. The resulting photographs, which include the grave of Camus' father, were exhibited at the House of Culture of Japan in Paris and at the Shanghai Biennale in 2018, followed by ShugoArts, Tokyo in 2019 and the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid as a part of her retrospective exhibition in 2021.

Exhibitions

Tomoko Yoneda's photographs have been exhibited in solo and group presentations internationally.

Solo exhibitions include Echoes—Crashing waves, ShugoArts, Tokyo (2022); Tomoko Yoneda, Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid (2021); Dialogue avec Albert Camus, House of Culture of Japan in Paris (2018); We shall meet in place where there is no darkness, Himeji City Museum of Art, Hyogo (2014) and Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2013).

Group exhibitions include DOMANI: The Art of Tomorrow, The National Art Center, Tokyo (2020); TOP Collection Reading Images: The Time of Photography, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2019); Catastrophe and the Power of Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2018).

Yoneda has also participated in numerous international exhibitions including the 12th Shanghai Biennale (2018); 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014); Aichi Triennale (2013); Kiev International Biennale of Contemporary Art (2012).

Website

Yoneda's website can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

Tomoko Yoneda
featured artworks

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Crystals I by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals I, 2013 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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Crystals VI by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals VI, 2013 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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Crystals, Siberia II by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals, Siberia II, 1998 Gelatin silver print
10 x 10 cm
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Crystals, Siberia I by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals, Siberia I, 1998 Gelatin silver print
10 x 10 cm
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Crystals XIII by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals XIII, 2023 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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Crystals XII by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals XII, 2023 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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Crystals XI by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals XI, 2023 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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Crystals X by Tomoko Yoneda contemporary artwork photography
Tomoko Yoneda Crystals X, 2023 Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 28.4 cm
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