current exhibition

Forest 印象と記憶 1989-2017 - 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

artist statment

Photographing the forest
Yoshihiko Ueda (Photographer/Professor, Tama Art University)

It’s been 30 years or so since I started taking photos of forests. Though 30 years is no time at all to a towering tree that has been on the planet almost a thousand.
It all began in 1989 and my encounter with the forest of Quinault in Washington State, a place of sacred significance to the local native Americans. In 2011 I then found myself photographing forest on the Japanese island of Yakushima. Witnessing the terrible destruction of life in March of that year by the merciless forces of nature, unleashed by the massive earthquake in Tohoku, I was driven to return to the forest once more, to seek out the origins of life I felt sure were there. I subsequently returned to the forest several times; in May 2017 visiting Quinault again, then Yakushima, and the virgin forest of the Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara, photographing them all.

Conventionally attractive landscape photography holds no interest whatsoever for me. Nor do what are generally referred to as nature photos. To my mind, I take the photographs I do because I am seduced by the “forest” as a particular manifestation of the primeval dispensation of living things; a place where living and dead coexist in a chaotic jumble, over the years blending harmoniously to create the world we find there: the secret harmony of the forest that gradually becomes apparent if we submerge ourselves in the forest, and quietly observe it. A pleasant, perfect rhythm beyond human capability. I was feeling this rhythm in every fiber of my being; walking around the forest, sensing it with my whole body, desperate to capture that state alive, and capture it all in a photo. It was at this point the forest began to proffer me the occasional hidden gateway. One day I would pass without noticing; on another it would open wide, beckoning me into a miraculous realm. But if I allowed my eyes to stray for even a moment, that door would slam shut, never to be found again even though I knew the whole experience was actually inside me.
It’s always like that when I walk in the forest.

In the forest there are places that are calming and comforting, and unsettling that evoke a strange, lingering uneasiness. Encountering the latter, unconsciously you find yourself walking faster, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. Yet there are also forests that make you want to settle in, stay there as long as permitted, forever in fact; forests where the sublime beauty of the trees renders time meaningless. One day, I sensed the difference between the two: it was light.
Places bathed in a pleasant light speak of the ceaseless circle of life, forming a forest with a wonderful rhythm. In dark forests where the sun doesn’t shine, that circle is broken and the rhythm lost, until eventually the forest gives way to a graveyard of dead things, losing the power to generate life.
Obviously, I am as attracted as anyone to forests teeming with life; life-giving forests pierced by shafts of soft light and possessed of an appealing rhythm that nurtures living things. As I walk around a forest my usual question arises: why try to photograph the forest? What is it of the forest I am trying to capture? In the forest, I can bear witness to the soothing rhythm of life at any moment; an experience akin to suddenly encountering a passage of music with an exquisite melody.
And so, pondering such matters, I make my way deeper and deeper into the forest, from time to time noticing the forest’s subtle messages. Looking hard I find places, points, that command attention. Focusing intently, I slowly approach, until sensing I can go no closer, and quietly coming to a halt. There I might find a section of glittering bark on a giant tree, or part of a moss-covered fallen tree, illuminated. Shifting my gaze to the surroundings, I spy the roots of what was once a behemoth of a tree, crumbled away to a scarlet powder; ferns glistening bluishly; dead branches, fallen leaves, moist lichen that covers it all in a gentle embrace. Gazing upward now far into the treetops, I see trees overlapping, forming a gradation of delicate harmony. My eyes are drawn especially to giants of the forest glowing green, and others of a heavy red hue. Thus my gaze flits here and there, unconsciously following the same line of sight time after time. Allowing my gaze to travel up and down the bark of a tree, I study the texture as if checking its feel with my hand. It shifts yet again: to little greenish-yellow leaves growing at the roots of a tree, to vivid green fern fronds. Innumerable fragments of tree bark peeled off and fallen, glistening silverly like fish scales; dead branches, lush, verdant mosses gently wrapping what has accumulated over the years and decayed. Fallen trees too, attempt to nestle in that embrace. All repeated on the ground behind. Gradations, undulations.
My eyes move to the adjacent tree, and I lose myself in the relationship between tree and tree. My gaze shifts to the branches. Long limbs extending horizontally are bowed. The moss known as horsetail, entwined like cotton on the needles, shines aqua, suffused with morning dew. The branches seem to droop increasingly under the weight. My gaze, my whole consciousness is commanded by their colors, and moves from details to coloring. The color of bark on large trees that catch my eye, Douglas firs silvery-blue, is so arresting I could gaze on it forever. Here and there, thin patches of elegant pale greenish-yellow moss spread over the bark. I caress the gradation of silver-blue on bark and pale yellow-green of the moss softly with my eyes, and notice that without my noticing, my attention has been diverted entirely to color. My gaze moves at leisure to the layers of infinite colors extending across the roots: red, green, brown, blue, yellow, black, silver, gold, purple, orange; lighter and darker, over many years becoming jumbled together, piling up, dissolving into each other. The colors of a place of living things, and things dead yet still possessing color. Deeper in, I note these undulating colors continuing. Looking up high, the overlapping colors of trees and foliage weave a stunning brocade, delicate gradations of blue and green forming warp and weft. My gaze moves abruptly to trees and branches alongside each other, because the breeze that sweeps through the forest from time to time makes branches sway. Foliage moving in the wind is sometimes that of conifers, sometimes of broadleaf trees. The low-drooping foliage of conifers sinks in deep blackish blue, while a soft light piercing the outstretched branches of tall trees shines on water filled with tangled moss, offering up a palette of exquisite pale blue.
Having acquired a taste of all this color, my gaze now moves from limb to limb, to a blue almost black in its darkness, and a glistening aqua. The wonder of the contrast awakens the senses, prompting my gaze to move rapidly to contours and details, tracing finer and finer aspects of the scene. To each moss entwined on tree bark, each piece of bark. Eyes move seamlessly from the crumbling trunk of a large fallen tree, to the mountain of decaying tree-dust, a startling red, spilled and piling there the deep green of moss coating trunk; the texture of trunk crumbled to powder; the contrast of soft and dewy textures become riveting, each and every one. My gaze shifts about, detail gradually segueing into the whole, the movement of my gaze from detail to whole, from detail to coloring, outlines to volume. Gaze and consciousness shift and awaken, shift and awaken, these movements continuing indefinitely I suppose, if I can just keep my eyes on the scene. In the same manner as blood races through veins and arteries at breakneck speed, never stopping until the demise of the flesh.



It’s almost 30 years since I began photographing forests, and I have now captured on camera three forests seemingly unrelated, apart from geographically, all being sited on the Pacific Rim: the forest of Quinault in the northwestern United States; Yakushima in the south of the Japanese archipelago; and the virgin forest of the Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara, central Japan. Crudely put, I suppose you could say my photographing these places was due to force of circumstance, serendipity, some kind of affinity, or suchlike. But actually these three forests share something very important to me: a kind of precious power that compels people to protect them, that has ensured their protection by humans since antiquity. The vital ability to perceive this power has passed down the generations since the dawn of mankind. I feel it myself with great intensity. I have been to many forests, but on encountering these three, found myself seized by a peculiar sensation that drove me to photograph them: a keen sensation that arose from inside of me, impossible to express in words. It was this sensation that prompted me to photograph this trio of forests.


Yoshihiko Ueda

Photographer/Professor of Department of Graphic Design, Tama Art University.
Born in 1957 in Hyogo Prefecture. Recognition for his achievements includes the Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prize, the New York Art Directors Club Photography Award, the Photographic Society of Japan Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others.
Having pursued his artistic practice continuously since he launched his career as an independent photographer, he has published 32 photo-collections to date (2016).
Among his most noted series (monographs) are QUINAULT (Kyoto Shoin, 1993), a brooding meditation on the eponymous sacred Native American rainforest; AMAGATSU (Korinsha, 1995), a backstage study 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 with Camera (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 (Kansas City), New Mexico Arts (Santa Fe), Hermés International (Paris), Stichting Art & Theatre (Amsterdam), and Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), among others. He has been producing Gallery 916 since 2011.


Forest: Impressions and Memories, 1989-2017
Yoshihiko Ueda

Date : 19 January - 25 March, 2018
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)

Talk Session & Book Signing :
​27 January, Saturday 15:00 - 16:30 Yoshihiko Ueda, Shigeo Goto (Editor)
11 February, Sunday 15:00 - 16:30 Yoshihiko Ueda, Toshiharu Ito (Art historian)
3 March, Saturday 16:00 - 17:30 Yoshihiko Ueda, Kotaro Iizawa (Photography critic)

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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