Exploring Self-Portraiture from a Unique Perspective

One of the dominant and most discussed paradigms in contemporary art is the search for identity or the notion of “self.” Kimiko Yoshida‘s examination of self-portraiture, which denies ego and fixed identity, explores this genre from a unique perspective. Yoshida’s conceptually driven self-portraits create boundless reincarnations of the photographer. In photograph after photograph, Yoshida transforms herself through a variety of cultural objects while concealing her persona in countless visual iterations. The photographer creates multidimensional images that are symbolic, visually striking, and culturally motivated, challenging the prevailing notions of identity and the self-portrait in innovative and resonant ways.

“Each of these photographs is actually a ceremony of disappearance, it is not an emphasis of identity, but the opposite – an erasure of identity.”

From Japan to Paris

Born in Tokyo in 1963, Yoshida left her home in Japan to escape the constricting social norms placed on women. Later by moving to France to study art, she discovered Baroque and Renaissance art which inspired her to pursue her artistic ambitions further.


Yoshida focuses on the expression of identity in portraiture, drawing historically from painting, photography, and ethnographic studies. Her newest series entitled RorschachYoshida is permeated with layers of visual information, exploring both aspects of representation and pure abstraction. Her new series continues to distance the artist’s persona while referencing history. Her additional use of the Rorschach inkblot test, the psychological test that analyzes a subject’s perceptions, gives a spontaneous and abstract direction to the work, ultimately merging photography and painting.

A Formulaic Approach

Yoshida’s quasi-monochromatic ensembles are pertinent to her conceptual conventions; as in her previous series, Painting. Self Portrait (2007-2010), and Abstraction. Self Portrait (2016-2017), her formula for studying representation takes place within an “unwavering conceptual protocol” (writes the artist); in every photograph, the subject is Yoshida, captured from a frontal point of view, she is approximately the same color as the background, and the picture is in a square format. A constant feature in her practice, the artist, maintains her various cross-cultural references free by actively exploring their functionality and meaning; repurposing garments from their intended function and referencing historical figures as yet another method for losing her ego.

Kimiko Yoshida, Rorschach Yoshida XCV (Sitting Bull), 2018, Archival Pigment Photograph and Acrylic Paint on Canvas

RorschachYoshida XCV (Sitting Bull)

In RorschachYoshida XCV (Sitting Bull), Yoshida creates a photograph that invokes the symbolic “disappearance” of her identity; she envisions herself disappearing onto the background as well as emerging from it (her body begins to fade in with the background’s monochromatic palette, diffusing the figure), she calls these her “ceremonies of disappearance.” The captivating colors of the Rorschach marks, the radiance of the garment, the intricate attire, and the hues of the sitter’s features control the viewer’s attention and create the dynamic focal point of the composition. Yoshida achieves visual harmony through her “unwavering protocol” that stringently controls the size and structure of its format but allows for a colorful and arresting interpretation. Yoshida does not engage the viewer, in the sense that she does not look at the camera, heightening the sense of objectivity. The photograph is printed on canvas, purposely suggesting a comparison with painting. The Rorschach overlay further elevates the tactile surface of the canvas and gives it an abstract element, giving the picture spatial obscurity between the photograph and the painting.

Free from Any Fixed-Identity

Kimiko Yoshida’s representational investigations are fundamentally metaphysical. Creating a concise visual framework for her inquiries, her incessant creativity and readiness to deconstruct cultural markers to generate original interpretations frees the artist from any fixed-identity. Yoshida’s conceptual stance distances her from an egocentric position and provides the tools and encouragement for the subversion of an established aesthetic. At her most auspicious state, Kimiko Yoshida becomes a phantasmagoric figure that disappears yet is still present, is imagined yet invisible. The artist’s constant state of flux emphasizes the urgency for creative freedom, inclusive of cultural difference and stream of consciousness references that find new meaning in societies’ cultural language, resulting in a liberating and resounding visual experience.

“All that’s not me, that’s what interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters.”


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