Photographic Images and Matter: Japanese Prints of the 1970s and Japan, Yugoslavia and the Biennial of Graphic Arts: Documents of Collaboration

22. 03. 2019 - 19. 05. 2019
440h/◎no_1tetsuya_noda_diary_aug_22nd_68.jpg
Tetsuya Noda: Diary August 22 '68, woodcut and silkscreen, 1968.

Photographic Images and Matter: Japanese Prints of the 1970s

and

Japan, Yugoslavia and the Biennial of Graphic Arts: Documents of Collaboration

Printmaking developed intensively in Japan after the end of the Second World War, reaching its peak during the 1970s, when Japanese production also rose to the very top by world standards. The exhibition of the Japanese Foundation entitled Photographic Images and Matter: Japanese Prints of the 1970s focuses on the artistic features of this prolific period through the selection of the most representative artists. Works are presented that attracted attention in the 1970s, both within the Japanese and the international arena, whose quality has been acknowledged by the numerous awards at graphic arts biennials as well as other achievements by Japan’s printmakers.

The second part of the installation at MGLC stems from the observation that Japanese art did not only make a step towards the West through its printmaking, but also towards those countries that were politically more remote. One of those was certainly Yugoslavia, where the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts played a pivotal role in forging connections with the international setting of the graphic arts. The circumstances that led to the collaboration between Japan and the local arena as far as the graphic arts and their essential characteristics are concerned will be discussed by the documentary exhibition Japan, Yugoslavia and the Biennial of Graphic Arts: Documents of Collaboration.

Photographic Images and Matter: Japanese Prints of the 1970s

Unlike the beginning of the 1960s when abstraction was the main focus, a return to the introduction of images from the real world can be noted in Japanese printmaking at the end of the 1960s. The trend of inserting photographic images into printmaking also appeared, influenced by the flood of visual images brought about by the boom of consumer culture and the emergence of the television medium. The most important recognition to this type of experimentation came in 1968 when Tetsuya Noda received the grand prize at the International Biennial Exhibition of Prints in Tokyo for his daily visual notations, in which he treated the photographic base in combination with silkscreen and woodblock printing. A rapid surge in works that adopted Noda’s method of converting photographs into prints could be observed in the years that followed, leading to the golden age of the graphic medium in Japan.

In addition to the growing influence of visual images on society, the idea of a dialogue between printmaking and photography also flourished due to the rapid spread of the new silkscreen technique, which made it easy to incorporate photographic images. A special feature of this approach was that the artists were simply able to eliminate anything unnecessary and emphasise only the essential information. This paved the way for various technical manipulations of photography, such as reducing the density of an image by using dots to create a grainier look and adding various textures to emphasise the materiality of the image. Such approaches enabled the artist to remove the lyrical elements from the original photograph and turn it into information. The photographic image thus became a tool for conveying the artist’s personal concepts. In addition to the aforementioned Tetsuya Noda, also Kosuke Kimura, Akira Matsumoto, Satoshi Saito, Hideki Kimura and Sakumi Hagiwara are presented in the exhibition An Age of Photographic Expression.

The so far mentioned printmakers understood the photographic image within printmaking predominantly as a bearer of information, therefore as a tool for expressing concepts and ideas. On the other hand, significant attention was also paid to those artists that treated the photographic image in a completely different way during the 1970s. These artists saw it explicitly as material, autonomous matter, whose handling should avoid the artist’s hand as far as possible, whereas the graphic material used, such as the printing plate, paper and colour, were assigned with an expressive autonomy. Some creators also sought the spiritual dimension in this autonomous aspect. Presented in this part of the exhibition under the title Images of Autonomous Matter are Jiro Takamatsu, Katsuro Yoshida, Koji Enokura, Shoichi Ida, Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Lee Ufan, Mitsuo Kano and Arinori Ichihara.

The curator of the exhibition is Kyoji Takizawa.

Japan, Yugoslavia and the Biennial of Graphic Arts: Documents of Collaboration

The documentary exhibition exemplifying the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts presents an intense cultural exchange between Japan and Yugoslavia after the end of the Second World War. The period from the point when diplomatic relations were established in 1952 is divided into several stages, defined by separate important personalities, events and exhibitions. The documentary format of the exhibition, composed of correspondence material from the MGLC Archive, photographic material from the Museum of Yugoslavia, Belgrade and Moderna galerija, Ljubljana as well as video material from the archives of RTV Slovenia, are complemented by the graphic works of those Japanese and Yugoslav artists, who were in various ways particularly exposed through the rich cultural exchange.

The first chapter of the exhibition is dedicated to the initial period of post-war collaboration between Japan and Yugoslavia, which was marked by the rapid response of the cultural sphere to establishing political relations between the two countries. This became most evident at the first Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in 1955, as Japan was the only Asian country to send its artists to the exhibition. A period of establishing personal contacts between the art experts from both countries followed, during which the trip of Zoran Kržišnik, director of Moderna galerija, Ljubljana and head of the Biennial of Graphic Arts to Japan in 1963 was of particular significance. He travelled there as an invited member of the jury of the International Biennial Exhibition of Prints in Tokyo, which was prepared following the model of the Ljubljana biennial. In the meantime, the Japanese printmakers attained their first successes in the form of prizes in Ljubljana, and the other way around, the Slovenian printmakers Riko Debenjak (1957), Janez Bernik (1962) and Andrej Jemec (1964) also became award recipients in Japan. During the 1960s, the political relations between the two countries deepened, which included a state visit by the president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito to Japan, making him the first from a communist state to do so. Meanwhile, Zoran Kržišnik continued his efforts to connect with leading internationally acclaimed Japanese experts, who proposed Japanese artists for participation and came to Ljubljana personally in their roles as the advisers of the organizers of the Ljubljana Biennial as well as jury members. In the 1970s, Japanese artists achieved the greatest successes in Ljubljana, much like at other graphic arts biennials. This period is marked by the Grand Prize received in 1971, 1975 and 1977 by Kosuke Kimura, Akira Matsumoto and Tetsuya Noda. If the Ljubljana audience had been initially familiar with the graphic works up till that point, then the exhibitions of the Japanese Ryu Group headed by artist Toshihiro Hamano taking place at Moderna galerija, Ljubljana and MGLC from 1984 onwards, also offered an insight into the achievements of Japanese contemporary art in other expressive mediums. With this, the foundations for a multifaceted collaboration in the field of the fine arts were laid, which continues to this day.

The authors of the exhibition are Gregor Dražil and Nevenka Šivavec.

An international symposium by the same title will be taking place during the course of the exhibition on 15 May.
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Artists on the exhibition:

Artists: Photographic Images and Matter: Japanese Prints of the 1970sKoji Enokura, Arinori Ichihara, Shoichi Ida, Sakumi Hagiwara, Mitsuo Kano, Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Hideki Kimura, Kosuke Kimura, Akira Matsumoto, Tetsuya Noda, Satoshi Saito, Jiro Takamatsu, Katsuro Yoshida, Lee Ufan
Curator: Kyoji Takizawa

Japan, Yugoslavia and the Biennial of Graphic Arts: Documents of Collaboration
Artists:Janez Bernik, Yozo Hamaguchi, Toshihiro Hamano, Andrej Jemec, Kosuke Kimura, Tetsuya Noda, Ivan Picelj, Kumi Sugai
Exhibition authors: Gregor Dražil and Nevenka Šivavec

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Exhibition design: Ivian Kan Mujezinović and Mina Fina.