Teruko Yokoi is renowned for her paintings which merge western abstraction and Japanese tradition. Born in 1924 near Nagoya in the Japanese province of Aichi, she became one of the great female artists of the twentieth century.

Her father, a calligrapher, ensured she took painting lessons from an early age and in her twenties Yokoi went to study with the renowned Impressionist Takanori Kinoshita. Although her own work is abstract, the Impressionist influence is evident - the paintings indicate something of the landscape, the hint of a mountain, a silty river bed. From the gentle dabs of colour to form the petals of poppy, fluid green reeds, and looming luminous moons, her canvases have a fluidity that recalls the strokes of a calligrapher’s brush.

In an interview with Anushka Roshani, that is printed in the book, Yokoi describes her paintings as “poems written in colours”. Her favorite haiku is by Matsuo Bashō and is “about poppies, about how you can’t fence them in. When I first read it, I had the feeling it was about me.”

Having studied modern art in Tokyo after the Second World War, she relocated to San Francisco in 1953 and entered the California School of Fine Arts, before moving once more to New York. It was here where her style withdrew from objective Impressionism and became progressively more abstract. The drips and splatters in her work reflect the Abstract Expressionist scene she herself was involved in creating in New York, alongside artists like Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and her future husband, Sam Francis. Following the devastation of the Second World War, this was at a time when artists were looking for new forms of representation, to reflect a new reality.

The book, Teruko Yokoi: Tokyo—New York—Paris—Bern, features her work from the years 1954 to 1964, a transitive period during which she moved from Tokyo to San Francisco, New York, Paris and then to Bern, which she made her home for over five decades. It has been produced in parallel with an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Bern, curated by Marta Dziewańska, which is running until May this year.

Teruko Yokoi. Tokyo – New York – Paris – Bern is published by Hatje Cantz and is available here.

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