Since 2001, Kimiko Yoshida’s self-portraits have adhered to an unvarying conceptual protocol: always the same subject (herself), the same point of view (frontal), the same lighting (indirect), the same chromatic principle (the subject is painted the same colour as the ground) and the same format (square). Thus the same figure is repeated, but never identically: the more it is repeated, the more it differs. The more it is the same, the more it changes.
- Jean-Michel Ribettes
Japanese photographer Kimiko Yoshida has assumed several roles over the years. With each character, and with every costume, she transposes the significance of simply capturing a self-portrait, through inverting the importance of each photo into a metaphysical space, drawing the focus away from the subject and onto the act of self-transformation.
More than simply playing a mere caricature of some iconic historical figure, or the subject of a famous painting, she has reimagined herself as the Geisha Marie-Antoinette, as the bright blue chromatic Mao Bride, or as countless other reincarnations.
Her commitment to losing all sense of self in the selfie has evolved into a new technique, one in which she adds an extra layer of distortion and an additional deterrent from seeing what was formerly known as Kimiko Yoshida.
Throughout her new exhibit YoshidaRorschach at the Galerie Dukan, in the outskirts of Paris, she explores the “Rorschach” method – a psychological inkblot test based on the viewers’ perceptions. The act of layering paint onto her self-portraits is an evolution from Yoshida’s normal transformations. It further distorts the subject, who disappears into her own self-portraits more than ever before.
Before visiting this exhibit I was unfamiliar with Kimiko Yoshida’s work, but within ten minutes she had become my new favorite artist. It took me two laps around the gallery to realize it was actually Yoshida herself hiding behind the blots of paint. I found her ability to transform into a dozen or so unique creations absolutely astonishing. Each portrait was a fantasy, a creation built onto Kimiko Yoshida as if she were merely a canvas to be painted and decorated.
What I love most about Kimiko’s particular form, is that there were no “tricks of the trade” (no Photoshop or retouching) involved in the making of any of her painted photographs.
Her process involves make-up, a symptomatically straightforward photography, acrylics, phosphorescent paint pigments, glitter and sequins.
This exhibit – it was all just Kimiko Yoshida. And, that may be a simple thing to say, but trust me when I tell you it was an immeasurably beautiful and equally perplexing feat to behold.
You can see more of these incredible paintings here or in person at the exhibit YoshidaRorschach, which will run through March 6, 2017. Galerie Dukan, 107 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, is a short commute from central Paris via Metro Line 4.
Brent Taalur Ramsey is an American freelance writer living in Paris.