Saturday, June 29, 2013

In the foggy forest

Amy Cutler emerged recently from the groves of Academe where she is completing a PhD to organise ‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’, an exhibition on the theme of 'forests, history, and social and environmental memory'.  I have written a piece about it for EarthLines Review but wasn't able to describe there everything that had been brought together for this show (a full list with photographs is now available in an online catalogue).  What I want to do here though is highlight the work of one artist I omitted from my review, Katsutoshi Yuasa.  His image of a deer in the woods displayed prominently at the back of the old belfry (see above) looks like an illustration of the Sorley Maclean poem 'Hallaig' from which the exhibition took its name, although it is actually called See you in the Foggy Forest.  The fogginess of the image is not simply the result of enlarging an old photograph or repeated photocopying (a process W. G. Sebald apparently used to arrive at some of his mysterious embedded images).  Yuasa's method is to monochromise photographs on a computer, carve them onto wooden panels using traditional chokokutou knives and then hand print them onto paper.

  Katsutoshi YuasaSee you in the Foggy Forest, 2010

Writing about Yuasa on her blog, Amy says that 'the amount of visual feedback in Katsutoshi Yuasa’s woodcuts reminds me of some research I’m doing now on memory and ideas of oral transmission and lexical feedback in the forest: ‘All of the problems and possibilities of oral thought and transmission are present in the forest’ (Martyn Hudson).'  Yuasa's titles 'persistently follow themes of noise, communication, and illegibility, with print titles including Listen, nature is full of songs and truth, The world without words, Made in the conversation, Slow screaming and Quotations from nature (while his first major solo exhibition in London was called Echoes from Nature).'  For me there are echoes of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, a film about the unreliability of memory that is set in a Japanese forest.  However, as I have not actually watched this film in twenty-five years, all I can say reliably now is that Yuasa's woodcuts are like the foggy memories I retain of Rashomon's woodland setting, details of its plot having long since been forgotten.

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