KENJI YOSHIDA (1924-2009): A Celebration of Life
15 April 2010 – 5 June 2010To see available works and biographical details
To mark the first anniversary of the passing of Kenji Yoshida, the October Gallery is pleased to announce a special exhibition of Yoshida’s work that will celebrate the extraordinary life of this remarkable man and outstanding artist. The exhibition, A Celebration of Life, will display works from the different periods of Yoshida’s career, including the incandescent etchings he made at Stanley Heyter’s Atelier 17 in Paris in the early 60’s, inks, calligraphy and paintings on paper from the 70’s onwards, as well, as the distinctive oil and metals on canvas that are his characteristic contribution to contemporary art, deftly-sketched portraits of the created universe itself.
As a young man growing up in Osaka, Yoshida first trained as an artist under the direction of Furukido Masaru Sensei, to whom he often later referred as his great mentor. Yoshida was only thirteen when war broke out in 1937, beginning with the Imperial Army’s invasion of China. The following year saw further expansion of hostilities with Japanese invasions of Russia and Mongolia. The country of Yoshida’s birth would continue on an evermore frenetic war footing until the ultimate admission of defeat, in 1945.
Recalling the specific admonition of the pacifist Furukido not to take up arms but to pursue painting instead, Yoshida threw himself back into his art with the passion of a man who knew how truly fortunate he was still to be able to paint. For the next sixty-three years of his thankfully long life, he would do little else but devote himself to a sustained exploration of the life-affirming forces that he had seen so nearly extinguished. In 1964, when he left Japan to live in Paris, he took conscious aim at the grandest subject of all, a systematic approach to describing the complexities of the life-force that invigorates everything, and for many years the majority of his canvases have carried that single, most telling of all titles, whether in French, Japanese or English: La Vie, Sei-Mei, Inochi - quite simply - “Life Force”.
In 1993, the quality of Yoshida’s work was recognised when he was honoured to be the first living artist ever to be given a solo exhibition at the Japanese Galleries of the British Museum. During the Festival of Canterbury, 2004, his magnificent octagonal installation, Sei-mei could be seen at Canterbury Cathedral. In 2006 the Chateau de Blois, in the Loire Valley held a major solo exhibition. His final exhibition was in the main exhibitions hall of UNESCO in Paris, in 2008.
NHK, Japan’s National Broadcasting Network, is preparing a special documentary ‘Sei-Mei’ on the life, work and transcendence of Kenji Yoshida, directed by the international award winning Yoshitaka Nitta. The programme will be broadcast during prime time this coming August in Japan, a month of commemorative events to mark Memorial Day in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
Kenji Yoshida : A Celebration of Life, is in collaboration with José Férez Kuri.
Yoshida Kenji: A talk given by Lawrence Smith, Keeper Emeritus of Japanese Antiquities, at the British Museum, on Saturday 17th April at 3pm, at October Gallery.
Kenji Yoshida - Artist of the Soul: A film by Ishmael Fifi Annobil, Tuesday 20th April, 7.30 pm October Gallery