How well I would write if I were not here! [...] I, too, would like to erase myself and find for each book another I, another voice, another name, to be reborn; but my aim is to capture in the book the illegible world, without center, without ego, without I. [...] The only way left me is that of writing all books, writing the books of all possible authors. [...] The book I'm looking for is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world.

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler



The series of self-portraits that have been Kimiko Yoshida’s signature since 2001 proceed from a constant conceptual protocol: always the same subject, the same framing, the same lighting, the same monochrome principle where the face of the photographer tends to disappear. Painting, makeup and direct shooting: here no digital retouching, no Photoshop. The same figure therefore repeats itself but is not identical to itself: the more it is the same, the more it is different. These are timeless and "abstract" portraits, that is, free from anecdote, story telling and narration.

This peculiar fixity of the subject, this indifference, as if the image contained in itself its absence of limits, responds to a very ancient process of infinite temporality in a restricted setting that goes back to the Flemish primitives. This dimension of infinity is correlated with a conceptual protocol, a principle of repetition and a logic of abstraction which obviously place these self-portraits beyond a problematic of self-representation, far beyond narcissistic meanings.

The series entitled Meditation is conceived with the memory of the history of art. It associates the principle of the figure with the presuppositions of geometry, extending the series Writing. Self-portrait that Kimiko Yoshida started in 2008 and her project Chameleon initiated in 1997 (when she was still a student at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts-Le Fresnoy).

Meditation evokes the abstract masterpieces of the old masters: Malevitch, Mondrian, Joseph Albers, Sol LeWitt... By this reference to paintings formerly painted by other artists, Kimiko Yoshida chose to introduce in her own works a function of otherness and dissimilarity, cleavage and disjunction.

This fading of the figure in pure color, this logic of substraction aimed at abstraction, this introduction of antagonism and erasure, all leads to the dehiscence of Chameleon, heterodox protean in search of dissimilarity. In the same way that Chameleon aspires to impurity and accepts annihilation, it is now a matter of becoming another.

In her images, fundamental otherness refers to the disjunction separating figuration and abstraction. An oxymoron, a conflicted, divided image, which means to signify something other than what it says, to give to see something other than what it shows, to separate the word and the thing. The antithetical alliance of antonyms, a confrontation of antagonisms, a dichotomous connection. Figuration plus abstraction, self-portrait with geometry: dissemblances and dissimilarities ...

The artist is aiming here to say the absence necessary for any representation, to assert the ambiguity or equivocation constituting the meaning, to give to see the lack required in the heart of the image. From then on, the subject revealed in the image is promised to erasure and retrenchment. Emergence and subtraction.

This paradoxical union of the irreconcilable, vertical disavowal of things as they are accepted, is a search on the fading of the self in the revelation of the image. Between annihilation and revelation, between appearance and abolition, the image seeks to give the invisible a visible expression, to give to see the intangible and the immaterial, where the being, delivered from its ordinary limitations, tends to confuse with the infinite duration of Time.


Jean-Michel Ribettes.