Tomio Koyama Gallery is pleased to present “Apple Tree”, a solo exhibition of works by the photographer Yoshihiko Ueda. Traversing photographic categories of art and advertisement, Ueda has continued to present work on the frontline throughout his career of 35 years. Dealing with diverse subjects from nature and still life to portraiture, Ueda constantly captures the best moment of the world in front of him through the sincerity of his gaze, never ceasing to attract viewers with his work.
The new work “Apple Tree” was first conceived upon Ueda’s visit to Kawaba, Gunma Prefecture, where he was invited as a judge of “Kawaba Nature Photo Festival” in 2013. Ueda found himself fascinated by a tree full of ripe apples, which he observed over a window of a taxi on his way to the festival. Having photographed it spontaneously, the vividness of the image had instilled in him the desire to return to the scene to shoot it again.
After a couple of years, Ueda returned to Kawaba and photographed the scene with an 8 x 10 camera. It was in November, the same time of year as when he first encountered the tree. He was taken by the color of the apples, strong sunlight, and their vitality. This particular tree was the oldest apple tree in Kawaba. The time evoked by the tree had also fascinated Ueda. Ueda describes that the moment he captured the color of the apples shining with sunlight and full of vibrant life had brought a sense of “pleasure” to his eyes beyond the lens, enabling his whole body to permeate with this sensation. In “Apple Tree”, that which is presented is the vitality and the passage of time harbored within the tree, as well as the elevated emotions of the photographer’s experience of this encounter.
“Fragments and Whole”: Energy that Generates Life and Structure of the World Ueda’s work seems to represent the indication of something invisible, or the gaze of the photographer who contemplates the cohesive whole that lies behind each subject, rather than merely depicting the subject itself. Hans Ulrich Obrist, art critic and the artistic director of Serpentine Galleries in London, remarks on Ueda’s book “A Life with Camera Yoshihiko Ueda”.
…all the while underpinned by a continued aim for the ‘pursuit of the whole’. …it intimates his search to capture ‘whole’ body and its environment, its very essence and energy. (Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Yoshihiko Ueda: Pars Pro Toto”, A Life with Camera Yoshihiko Ueda, 2015)
Ueda himself states in an interview as follows: It may be fragments of the world that I shoot while traveling. However, the fragments enable us imagine the whole. The world that I perceive is captured there. I try to comprehend the world through my own eyes, not by means of a world that is shot by someone else. Through the small world that lies within the finder, I find the ancient time and energy generating life, structure of the world, and many other things. (“Yoshihiko Ueda Special Interview”, Canon Gallery S Special Website, 2015)
His work Materia, a series photographed in a native forest in Yakushima the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, comprises of a dialogue with an old tree said to be over 1,000 years old, and has inspired Ueda’s above thoughts regarding his manner of expression.
Materia in Latin refers to a trunk of a tree, and also means energy generating life. When I discovered the meanings of this word, I felt like my thoughts on the position (address) of “new photography” since my work “Quinault” had come to gain more clarity. As the word indicates, the desire to explore the energy for life as well as the structure of the world had become the aim of my photographic expression. (“Yoshihiko Ueda Special Interview”, Canon Gallery S Special Website, 2015)
While depicting “fragments” of the world, from the color of apples, light, trees and plants, to people, in a careful and delicate manner reminiscent of brushstrokes, Ueda’s work serves to capture the “whole” — the structure of the world and earth as it continues from the ancient times, and it’s energy to generate life. This is the very essence of Ueda’s practice, and suggests his attitude and awe towards nature and world, as he himself mentions that he “takes photographs with the pleasure of being taught by them”.
After shooting the “Apple Tree”, Ueda developed the work as normal in the form of a large size print. Nevertheless, he had felt something was not quite right. Although the enlarged image was strong and had impact, Ueda found that something was lost and had given rise to a sense of “distance. The “intimacy” he had once felt in front of the “Apple Tree” had been lost.
In hopes to depict this notion of “intimacy”, Ueda tested out various photographic sizes – 8 x 10, 4 x 5, and 6 x 7, finally settling with 87 x 68 mm. It was his first attempt to reduce the size of the photograph from its original shooting size of 8 x 10. He determined the right balance and relationship between the image and the border of printing paper, which in itself constituted this “intimate distance”.
Ueda’s understanding of “Intimacy” is explained as follows: (He has) no interest in landscape photography that has been taken based on a preconceived notion of the word “landscape”. There must be a rediscovery born out of a personal relationship between that person and nature. (Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Yoshihiko Ueda: Pars Pro Toto”, A Life with Camera Yoshihiko Ueda, 2015). Ueda states, “I was happy that I found this intimate distance – I felt like I had encountered, captured, and arrived in a new place.” Ueda had thus experienced the feeling of “capturing” again, and of stepping out for “rediscovery”. For over 40 years since he first commenced his photographic practice, Ueda has continued to explore new expressions through his filter of photography; always challenging himself to capture the strong impulses and impressions that he happens upon, as well as the pleasure felt through such encounters.
He further articulates, “I have always considered the blank spaces of the printing paper to be beautiful. The white of paper is the color of light.” This white is thus an “intimate color of photography” that Ueda is only able to find in the very paper itself. Gazing upon a small image of 87 x 68 mm against the white background, viewers encounter time and space that extends without limit, perhaps also serving as a moment of “rediscovery” for us. The exhibition will feature approximately 10 new works that enable viewers to experience Ueda’s new perspectives.
Yoshihiko Ueda was born in 1957 in Hyogo. Ueda established his studio in 1982 after working as an assistant for photographers Masanobu Fukuda and Taiji Arita. Editorial commissions led him to work in the various fields of advertising stills and commercial film productions. He has received many international awards including the Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prize and the New York Art Directors Club Photography Award. He also received a lifetime achievement award from The Photographic Society of Japan in 2014. He has published 32 photography books, and since 2011 has served as director at Gallery 916, engaged in both the production and planning of exhibitions and publications. He is a professor at Department of Graphic Design, Tama Art University.
His major solo exhibitions include, “Yoshihiko Ueda ‘Photographs’” (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2003), “Chamber of Curiosities” (The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, 2006, traveled to The University Museum, National Taiwan University of Arts, 2011, Musée Gadagne, Lyon, 2011), “QUINAULT” (G/P Gallery, Tokyo, 2009, traveled to Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, 2010, TAI modern, Santa Fe, 2010), “SHIZUMARU” Toshiro Kawase (Ikebana Artist) X Yoshihiko Ueda (Photographer) (Hosomi Museum, Kyoto, 2011, traveled to G/P gallery, Tokyo, 2011, and Tokyo Art Club, 2011), “Jomon People” (National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, 2012). His major group exhibitions include “New Japanese photography in 1990’s: The Resonance of Unconsciousness” (Yokohama Civic Art Gallery, 1996), and “Reverdecer, Paisaje 1969-2013” (Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 2013). His work is included in numerous public collections including, Hermés International (France), The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (USA), Permanent Public Art Collection of New Mexico Arts (USA), National Library of France (Paris) and The Stichting Art & Theatre (Holland).