A two-person exhibition of work by Bontarō Dokuyama and Yumiko Ono exploring the continuous interaction between historical perspectives and the unending dialogue between the present and past in Japan.

During the Meiji era (mid 19th century – early 20th century), considerable political tensions existed by widening imperialistic incursions by Western powers and aggression by Japan towards other Asian countries. In this atmosphere, there arose a strong awareness of a so-called “Japanese essence”, or “Japanese spirit”, for example, as represented by traditional “waka” poetry.

In Synchronized Cherry Blossom (2020), Dokuyama takes the symbolic cherry blossom, its historical and contemporary interpretation, and its adoption as a symbol of Japanese national identity. From the late 1920s until the end of World War II, the Japanese populace was led to believe that their young sons were going to war to gallantly sacrifice their lives to protect their families and loved ones. The same narrative linked soldiers whose lives were cut short to the Somei-Yoshino strain of cherry tree blossoms, with its petals that fall just a few days after reaching full bloom, in the minds of mourners. After the war, the Somei-Yoshino cherry trees planted across the country came to stand for reconstruction and booming economic growth. Today, the 100-yen coin contains an image of cherry blossoms, a symbol of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and a pretext for the annual gala gathering hosted by the country’s prime minister for his supporters.

Yumiko Ono’s work similarly explores the continuous interaction between historical perspectives and present day Japan. Her prime mediums are drawing and slip cast porcelain, and she focuses on surface nature in both practices. By using these methods, Ono attempts to create content with superficial elements, to express the fragility and fictionality of modernity. 
Created using traditional techniques and methods, her Scenery series of slip cast glazed porcelain bowls examine the significant role of art and craft in the interpretation and subsequent reinterpretation of Japanese tradition and modernity. In Ono’sEmporer series the representation of the Imperial Emperor as embodying the Japanese nation-state and ideas of nationhood is explored. A figure ever-present while at the same time, ever absent.

Borrowed Scenery ‘study’ was a special project exhibition as part of the 3331 Art Fair 2021. Special thanks to Yukiko Ito, Tomoko Hisaki, Akio Tokunaga and Leesaya Gallery