Critics’ Picks

Tsuyoshi Ozawa, The Return of Painter F, Chapter 8,  2015, oil on canvas, 59 x 98 1/2".

Tsuyoshi Ozawa, The Return of Painter F, Chapter 8, 2015, oil on canvas, 59 x 98 1/2".


Tsuyoshi Ozawa

Shiseido Gallery
8-8-3 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo Ginza Shiseido Building, Basement Floor
October 23–December 27, 2015

Art institutions across Japan, in observing the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, have started to allow artists more freedom to explore this extremely sensitive topic. With its sympathetic depiction of a fictional war-artist protagonist based on Leonard Foujita, Tsuyoshi Ozawa’s series “The Return of Painter F,” 2015, strongly makes the point that war changed the country’s artists. These men—as could be said of many Japanese returnees—found it difficult to come back to Japan after the war because they no longer felt “Japanese” enough. As Ozawa writes in Chapter 7, one of his paintings depicting the eponymous painter, “Two artists came [back] to Japan,” but then in the final Chapter 8, “One has run away. He started a life . . . in the new place.”

Meanwhile, in the background of Japan’s war narrative is the effect of the country’s colonization policies on another Asian nation: Indonesia. One work in “Painter F” specifically references the Keimin Bunka Shidosho, a real painting school established in Jakarta in 1943 that was aimed at “pacifying the local population” and asserting the cultural superiority of their colonizers. Ozawa himself commissioned several Indonesian artisans and musicians to produce his works. One highlight of the exhibition, for instance, is a video with the guttural tones of the metal singer Senyawa performing Ozawa’s lyrics for “The Return of Painter F” alongside a traditional Indonesian gambus. By recreating a relationship that left local artists disempowered relative to their Japanese counterparts, spurred by Japan’s World War II–era occupation of Indonesia, Ozawa reminds viewers of what has yet to change, even seventy years on.