Taeko Tomiyama

1921Kobe, Japan | 2021Tokyo, Japan
Informations
Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Taeko Tomiyama, January 2021, Photo Momoko Iwahashi

Japanese painter, visual artist.

Taeko Tomiyama was born into a modern, highly cultured family. In 1933, due to her father’s work, the family moved to China. She grew up in the cities of Dalian and Harbin, which were at that time part of Manchuria. She went back to Japan in 1938 in order to enter the Joshibi Women’s School of Fine Arts in Tokyo but dropped out, disappointed in the school’s old-fashion teaching methods. Having lived in many places, T. Tomiyama had met many people of different cultures, which led to the realization of discrimination of Japan, and helped her resist being assimilated by Japanese imperialism and militarism. Remembering her formative years and experience of imperial Japanese colonization and the war, she decided to focus on social issues and attempted to revolutionize art society with avant-garde works.
After Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, T. Tomiyama made a living publishing illustrations and reports. She also presented her pieces in well-known group exhibitions such as the Jiyū Bijutsu Kyōkai (Liberal Art Association) and Nihon-Bijutsu-kai (Art Association of Japan) until the mid-1970s.

In the 1950s the artist visited coal-mining villages where labour and cultural movements were born because of the hardship created by Japan’s newly introduced energy policy. For years she continued to publish works depicting mines, including Hitachi Copper Mine (1952). After that, as many miners did, she travelled to Latin America for a year and learned about the North-South divide, inequality, racism and the imperialism of Western Europe. That also helped her to realize the problems of the Western-centred Japanese art world.
When she returned to Japan in the 1960s, she participated in the anti-Vietnam War civil movement and became aware of the political situation in Korea. She felt deeply responsible for the Japanese colonialism behind the division of Korea.
She created lithographs in the 1970s based on the poetry of South Korean political prisoner, Kim Chi-ha, while helping to raise the international community’s awareness regarding political prisoners and people falsely accused of espionage by the Korean military government (cf. photo of T. Tomiyama campaigning against torture in Shinjuku in 1975). It was during this time that she left groups dedicated to art and began to exhibit at venues for civic movement and to collaborate with artists from other genres.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, she changed from oil painting to lithography and focused on creating slides, poetry, paintings and records, such as Ballad for Victor Jara’s Broken Hands 2 (1973), inspired by the poet Kim Chi-ha “Chained Hands in Prayer”. These works, which take less time to create, and are easier to carry, conceal or transport, were delivered to the sites of democratic movements in Asia such as Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. During the Gwangju Uprising in May 1980, for example, she reacted quickly, creating slides of her prints which were shown at the Gwangju Solidarity Movement in Japan and abroad (Kwangju Requiem II [1980]).
Since the mid-1980s, concerned with historical revisionism, T. Tomiyama has depicted topics such as the sexual slavery practiced by the Japanese military (the so-called “the comfort women) in At the Bottom of the Pacific (1985) and The Night of the Festival of Garungan (1986), or the death of a Korean coal miner who was forcibly taken to Japan in Bitter Resentment Deep in the Soil (1984). Other pieces depict Japanese society as preoccupied with the economy, or immigrant workers from Thailand or Manchuria (Illusion of Chrysanthemums [1998] and Sending off a Soldier [1994]). The artist has also created several oil paintings and collages focused on contemporary social issues of the 2010s, including Crisis: Prayer to Sea and Sky (2012).
In recognition of her contribution to supporting and promoting the Korean pro-democracy movement, T. Tomiyama was awarded the Order of Civil Merit by the Korean government in June 2021.

Yuna Seo

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, At the Bottom of the Pacific, 1985, 162 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Hitachi Copper Mine, 1952, 130 x 162 cm, oil on canvas, Collection of the artist

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Ballad for Victor Jara’s Broken Hands 2, 1973, 33 x 24,5 cm, prints (lithograph), Collection of the artist

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, who is campaigning against torture in Shinjuku, 1975, Photo Yoko Wakabayashi of Fujin Kōron [Women Public Opinion]

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, By the poet Kim Chi-ha “Chained Hands in Prayer”, 1977, 29.2 x 22.8 cm, slide works, Korea Democracy Foundation Collection

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Kwangju Requiem II, 1980, 53.2 x 28.8 cm, prints (lithograph), Collection of the artist

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Bitter Resentment Deep in the Soil, 1984, 194 x 112 cm, oil on canvas, Collection of the artist

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, The Night of the Festival of Garungan, 1986, 162 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, Collection of the artist

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Sending off a Soldier, 1994, 140 x 90 cm, oil on canvas, Kyoto Seika University Collection

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Illusion of Chrysanthemums, 1998, 162 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Taeko  Tomiyama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Taeko Tomiyama, Crisis: Prayer to Sea and Sky, 2012, 97 x 145.5 cm, oil on canvas, Collection of the artist

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