In situ 

27. A NOTE ON THE « PAINTINGS. SELF-PORTRAITS » by Jean-Michel Ribettes, 2009 – Solo Show, NEW YORK PHOTO FESTIVAL, NYC, 2009 – English

Since she fled her homeland to escape the mortifying servitude and humiliating fate of Japanese women, Kimiko YOSHIDA – through what is called « self-portraits » – has refined and amplified a feminist stance of protest, cultivated and distanced from “current affairs”: against contemporary cliches of seduction, against voluntary servitude of women, against « identity » defined by appurtenances and « communities », against the stereotypes of « gender » and the determinism of heredity.

Kimiko YOSHIDA’s quasi-monochrome self-portraits are well known and well acknowledged. These large, square, subtly lit monochromic photographs constitute her signature works since 2001. The artist, who sees a figure of the infinite in monochrome, regards the self-portrait as a disappearance: totally conditioned by the experience of transformation.

“Art is a subtle process of transposition, an assiduous struggle with the state of things. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters.” Her new series of photographs, majestic and indecipherable portraits conceived with the history of art in mind, is entitled Painting. Self-portrait. This symbolic transposition of the chefs-d’oeuvre of the old masters into large archival prints on canvas is based essentially on the diversion of haute couture garments and accessories designed by Paco Rabanne.

Kimiko YOSHIDA’ s new photographs continue her series Mariées (Brides), begun in 2001.

Titled Paintings and endowed with new meaning, these new self-portraits could be have been called Détournements because of the way they are organized around the processes of deflection or diversion. The French word détournement means deflection, diversion, rerouting, distortion, corruption, misuse, misappropriation, hijacking, or otherwise turning something aside from its normal course or purpose. This term was redefined by Guy DEBORD (The Situationist International, 1957–73) in the sense of “diversion of preexisting aesthetic elements »: « Détournement is thus first of all negation of the value of the previous organization of expression [...], the search for a broader construction, at a superior level of reference, as a new monetary unity of creation. »

For Kimiko YOSHIDA, diversion represents a turning away from old meanings in regard to:
1. haute couture accessories and objects of daily life,
2. masterpieces of the history of painting,
3. previous works in the Mariées series and
4. her own photographic practice.

1. Like her previous self-portraits, the Paintings of Kimiko YOSHIDA are an (incomplete) attempt at monochrome color: the artist sees in the monochrome a symbol of infinity – the unattainable infinity of time, the inexhaustible infinity of the gaze – where the figure of the artist tends to disappear. What is visible in the Paintings is a demonstrative misuse or diversion of objects of everyday life. The artist diverts gowns, shoes, salad bowls, and handbags into hairstyles of the period of Louis XIV, antique jewelry, or historical costumes.

2. By diverting objects of everyday life and fashion accessories, fragments belonging to the haute couture or to the history of art, the Paintings – a series of 120 pictures – transform the works of PICASSO, MATISSE, GAUGUIN, REMBRANDT, RUBENS, DELACROIX, TIEPOLO, WATTEAU…

3. The history of art is not the only reference for the Paintings: the artist cites and diverts in these new self-portraits also her own previous work. Diverting everyday objects from their intended use and transforming them through the context of the Paintings, Kimiko YOSHIDA recreates hairstyles or archaic masks she finds in museums and stages behind them her own disappearance.

4. Paintings: the title refers directly the function of diversion. In other words, the word “painting” is itself a diversion. This simple title diverts both the material reality of the photograph and the formal principles of painting. Making large canvases (59 x 59 inches) of archival digital prints from medium-format, 6 x 6 cm film slides, Kimiko YOSHIDA redoubles the diversion staged in these self-portraits: the diversion of photographs printed on canvas and titled Paintings – paintings of diversion without painting.

Jean-Michel RIBETTES,
English translation by Klaus OTTMANN.