past exhibition

森の記憶 - Yoshihiko Ueda

Weekdays 11:00 - 20:00

Weekends and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30

Mondays and Tuesdays Closed

Entrance Fee 800 yen for over 18


Forest Memories/Forest perceptions
Toshiharu Ito Art historian/Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts, Department of Intermedia Art

Forests are intimately connected to the motions of our bodies and souls. Wandering through a forest, one may perceive that many different things are flowing forth and mixing. Meaning that perhaps our bodies and souls also flow forth and mix with the forest.
This is something reinforced by perusing the carefully chosen flow of forest shots captured by Yoshihiko Ueda, starting in 1989 with a special area of sacred ground in North America, in the state of Washington, and continuing up to the present day.
QUINAULT, in which Ueda took memories of days spent carrying an 8 X 10 large-format camera around forest sacred to the local Native Americans, filled with enormous trees resembling the columns of ancient temples, and thick with carpet-like moss, and channeled them into the writhing tangle of ferns and microorganisms flourishing on sacred trees shrouded in a bluish-green haze; Materia, which captured the origins of the life force, illuminated through an ongoing dialogue with forests when 20 years later, after the massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Ueda traveled to the island of Yakushima, a place where giant granite boulders pierce mountains dotted with rock masses and pillars severely eroded by Japan’s highest rainfall, and covered in lush, botanically diverse forests of deciduous fig (Ficus superba), banyan, chinquapin and cedar; and M. River, in which the photographer moved about thick forest again on Yakushima, where 140 rivers flow out in a radial pattern and waterfalls and valleys abound, attempting to snatch the torrent of life and the phenomenon of its mysterious meanderings, at the source in the Okudake mountains venerated by the ancients…
Forests undulate and surge, their suspended shimmering impacting enormously on the experiences of those who engage with them.
In the city, we rarely ever sense undulations in space, yet moving around the forest for any length of time, we come to realize that the world possesses the extraordinary potential to generate topographical and geological features, waterways and river systems, and that forests are the products of such undulations and distortions. Because we too are formed in this way. So with each step into the forest, the quality of the forest rapidly changes: silvery light filtering through, the discovery of tiny flowers like fresh blood amid a veil of moss, sinking into soft fallen leaves, recoiling from the scent of reddish-brown humus.
Moreover the forest does not consist of obvious layers and forks like a family tree, but is an agglomeration of multilayered mesh in which many different things are connected, branch and branch entwined, leaves and vines trickling down, suffused with the scents of soil and water, fallen logs and old trees rotting and disintegrating; everywhere a symbiotic cycle in which it is impossible to discern where trees and plants begin and end.

Tracing Ueda’s long memory of forests, one starts to wonder if the process of following rivers back through dense forest was in fact a journey back in time. Or perhaps the process of exploring darkness within.
The acts of crossing clear blue rivers, passing cascading waterfalls, traversing winding paths through rock fields and gullies, navigating wetlands and marshes, subtly alter the inner depth and texture of the self. The further one advances into the forest, the deeper it becomes, on and on; slivers of light hazily enshrouding the boundless jungle until gradually, one loses all sense of direction or location. Birds and beasts fall silent too, the quiet seeping into the sylvan depths.

Does wandering through a forest mean reclaiming the perceptions of the people who made it their home long ago? The forest rattles our perceptions, and shows us how the ancients lived, when a decision taken in the moment could mean the difference between life and death. Wandering the forest awakes sensations such as these.
Borrowing the power of sunlight, bright green leaves transport nutrients to branches, where they travel from branch to trunk, and on to roots. One can really feel this wave of power, as if one is almost assimilating with the flow of sap.
In a forest, the domain of our spatial orientation is transformed; nor is self-awareness of any assistance. The further we go into the forest, the further we travel upriver, the more our own presence begins to blur, like heat haze; the very axes of our culture and society becoming unclear.
It is amid such a sense of internal and external changing places that we arrive at the river’s source, but we quickly lose sight of that physical location and the sensation of it, and are left with only a kind of translucent threshold hanging about the scene before us. The act of engaging with that translucent threshold, and photographing around its edges, was for the photographer akin to staring into the abyss of humanity. This complex path, this route into the depths of the forest doubtless provided Ueda with a potent opportunity to rethink the likes of nature and life, human beings and photography.

Confronting the forest also meant engaging with nature in the form of his own body. Strictly speaking, this meant engaging not with conscious, but unconscious nature.
Though we are usually oblivious to the fact, our bodies are part of nature. Nature is not formed by human consciousness. Things like language and cities are the products of human consciousness, and can be manipulated by human consciousness, but nature in its essence is not controlled by human consciousness, nor can it control our bodies. Thus engaging with the forest is like engaging with our own inner threshold on nature.
Imprinted on this inner threshold is the fact that beyond the threshold is a different nature, and before it, a world of fabricated consciousness. A peculiar sort of boundary is formed, and if one were to step over that threshold, the conscious nature would no doubt be significantly disturbed. If we interpose our bodies in the unconscious nature, our perceptions are altered, because our body as unconscious nature becomes alert. Ueda detected the presence of such a threshold deep in the forest, and finally, attempted to photograph it. The result is that along with a transformation in self-awareness, the photos reflect the process of approaching the boundary harboring that peculiar energy, brushing past it, and returning once again to the conscious body, along with the conflicting emotions of fear and attraction. In fact, it is clear from there that photography is a wavering of the boundary between conscious nature and unconscious nature.

Looking at the forest photos of Yoshihiko Ueda, I am suddenly seized by the thought that there are things in this world that will never be understood by us. Through those forest pictures, the cumulative thoughts and memories of 30 years, we intuit this thing, some eternal mystery. Was it to teach us such things that photography was born? Through those forest routes and roots, harboring layer upon layer of bundled, incredible forces, we arrive in an instant once more at the source of photography.


artist statment

It’s 30 years now since I first attempted to photograph the origins of life, starting in the forests of Quinault, and ending up in those of Yakushima. So as not to lose sight of the photos that gradually became apparent, as I wandered the forests shouldering a large-format camera, I chose the name “Materia.” The instant I came across this Latin word meaning tree trunk, and life-generating force, the contours of the photographs – which until then had been hazy as if shrouded in mist – revealed themselves with remarkable clarity. Our planet possesses the origins of life, the force that generates life. The ancient spent eons discovering the principle of this world, and revealed language in order to pass it on. It is my earnest desire that similarly, the photos here reveal the principle of how the world came about.


Yoshihiko Ueda

Photographer/Professor of Department of Graphic Design, Tama Art University.
Born in 1957. Recognition for his achievements includes the Tokyo Art Directors Club GrandPrize, the New York Art Directors Club Photography Award, the Cannes Lions InternationalFestival Creativity Silver Lion for Graphic Design, the Asahi Advertising Award, and thePhotographic Society of Japan Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others. Havingpursued his artistic practice continuously since he launched his career as an independentphotographer, he has published 32 photo-collections to date (2016). Among his most notedseries (monographs) are QUINAULT (Kyoto Shoin, 1993), a brooding meditation on theeponymous sacred Native American rainforest; AMAGATSU (Korinsha, 1995), a backstagestudy of Sankai Juku dancer-choreographer Ushio Amagatsu; at Home (Littlemore, 2006),intimate snapshots of the artist’s family; Materia (Kyuryudo Art Publishing, 2012), images of primeval forest taken on the island of Yakushima; and his recently presented A Life withCamera (Hatori Shoten, 2015), a collection of works including portraits, landscapes, snapshots,and advertising photography from his massive all works spanning more than 30 years.Ueda’s works are in the collections of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (KansasCity), New Mexico Arts (Santa Fe), Hermés International (Paris), Stichting Art & Theatre(Amsterdam), and Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), among others.


Yoshihiko Ueda

Date : 14 April - 2 July, 2017
Time : Weekdays 11:00 - 20:00 / Weekends and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30
Closed : Mondays ( Except for Holidays)
Entrance Fee :
Adults 800 yen / College students or over the age of 60 500 yen / High school students 300 yen / Junior high school students or younger Free (Gallery916 & 916small)

Yoshihiko Ueda, the photographs For enquiries regarding
the purchase of the photographs, please contact the gallery.
TEL: +81-(3)-5403-9161 / FAX: +81-(3)-5403-9162
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