The images in this selective display offer audiences a fresh perspective on well-known works of landscape art from Japan, and encourage an interrogation of their roles in the national art history of Japan. How does a mountain become a national symbol, and what role does the medium of graphic reproduction play in the process? Why is a picture of the tree-covered hills above a valley shrouded in mist rendered in traditional mineral- and plant-based paints inside a Western-style frame considered typically Japanese?
Why is it that in the 17th and 18th centuries in Japan, time and again images of Chinese landscapes – such as West Lake in Hangzhou – were painted or copied, despite the fact that neither the painters nor the viewers had ever seen these landscapes with their own eyes? Why do so many of the landscapes from that era not only depict Chinese subject matter, but also take their stylistic cues from works of Continental painting? Which pictures did the popular graphic artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) sell of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a region which until the 19th century was independent, but had to pay tributes to both China and Japan (since 1879 known as the Prefecture of Okinawa, now part of Japan), a place he had never actually been to?
Works by contemporary artists reveal other dimensions of such ambivalent landscapes. For example, Yuken Teruya (born 1973 in Okinawa, based in Berlin), offers a subjective perspective of the recent history of the Okinawa Islands[JS1] , while photographic works by Reijiro Wada (born 1977 in Hiroshima, based in Berlin) feature sites of historical tragedies, such as the ash pond at Auschwitz, the city of Hiroshima, and the bay where American troops made their bloody landing on the shores of Okinawa in 1945, detaching them from their historical contexts and depicting them as idyllic landscapes.
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