The spring season at Turku Art Museum opens with an exhibition of photographs by Shoji Ueda (1913–2000) – the first show in Finland to include work from the artist’s entire career. Ueda is considered one of the foremost Japanese photographers of his day. He is best known for surreal and dreamlike pictures in which human figures – often members of the artist’s own family – appear playfully set against a landscape of sand and sky.
Growing up in a clog maker’s family, Shoji Ueda became interested in visual arts at a young age. He trained as a photographer in Tokyo and opened his own photography studio in his hometown of Sakaiminato at the age of 19. He was active in photography associations and played a key role in forming photography groups throughout his career. Although Ueda was attached to his native region and travelled very little, he was inspired early on by European avantgarde art. In the 20th century, Japanese photographic magazines and publications were the most important media for Japanese photographers to show their work and participate in discussions on photography. it was these magazines that gave Ueda his first glimpses of European photography and technical experimentation.
Ueda rose to international prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, when his work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Arles International Photo Festival in France. The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography opened its doors in the Tottori Prefecture in 1995. Ueda’s work has been exhibited around the world and is found in many prestigious collections, including those of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, MoMA in New York, and Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Ueda’s pictures convey a profound sense of humour and a distinctive aesthetic way of looking at the world. Ueda called himself an amateur photographer and followed his intuition, evading categories and prevailing artistic trends. His photographs often tell us more about the artist’s mindset than the subject in front of his lens. Featuring over 130 original photographs, the exhibition at Turku Art Museum presents Ueda’s early work from the 1930s, his iconic portraits taken on dunes, photographic series that verge on realism, and impressionistic colour photos from the 1980s.
The exhibition is a collaboration with Shoji Ueda’s grandson Yutaka Masutani. The exhibition producer at Turku Art Museum is curator Selina Kiiskinen.