Lena Yokoyama: Visual Translations
Lena Yokoyama is a Japanese/Austrian illustrator, printmaker, and ‘visual translator’. Having grown up mostly in Japan and Austria, with some time spent some in France and the US, Lena is now living in London, where she also completed her degree in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts in 2020. Drawing her inspiration mostly from people, culture, languages, and translation, Lena is also a big fan of the Japanese concept of ‘Wabisabi’, which sees the beauty in the natural, incomplete, and imperfect. This is further reflected in her love for analogue print techniques that celebrate grain, imperfections, and mis-registration.
As someone from a multi-cultural and multi-linguistic background – her dad being a translator of Japanese and her mum a German teacher – languages have always played an important role in Lena’s life. “I’m mostly interested in the differences between languages and how to create bridges between cultures through the art of translation” says the printmaker. She continues; “However, as I’m a visual artist who likes to communicate with images much more than with words, I’m looking at how translation may be performed visually, in a way that can go beyond what words can express.”
Thus, this leads to Lena’s most recent self-initiated print and illustration based project, Visual Translations. The work explores the Japanese concept ‘Ma’ 間, which loosely means ‘pause’ or ‘in-betweeness’, yet the finer nuances of its meaning cannot easily be contained in the English language. Lena states; “My aim is to instead use an illustrative language that will allow this concept to become accessible to a wider audience”.
The project is similar to the game of Silent Post. Lena asked her Japanese father to take an old point and shoot camera to Japan and take pictures of scenes he would consider to represent ‘Ma’ 間. She then asked him to describe the basic composition of these images to her without showing her the photographs. Lena’s illustrations are her further interpretation of his descriptions. She explains; “This creates a chain of reiterations of information and acts as an experiment to see whether meaning can be carried through different mediums, thus creating visual forms of translation.”
Lena mostly works in Japanese calligraphy ink on paper, which she later digitally colours. Each of her illustrations consist of a limited colour palette with only 2-3 layers. Often using complementary colours, Lena creates additional colours by overlapping her layers without having to add more. This creates a kind of ‘faux-Riso’ effect. “I’ve developed my illustration process specifically in this way so that my work can be further translated into spot-colour printing, through my own Risograph (Roko Press), lithography, relief, and screen printing” says Lena.
“Through my work I would like to build conversations around social values, cultural identity, and cross-cultural communication. By never having been from one place only, I spent a long time in my youth feeling like I don’t fully belong anywhere. But since moving to London 5 years ago, I now recognise the beauty in diversity and cultural differences and it’s a belief I want to share”. For Lena, illustration is a tool to bring together her own invention of a universe with a thematic context, enabling her to create a visual language which she can use to facilitate bridges between different cultures. “Print is closely connected to my practice as it enables me to bring my work to life and off the screen,” concludes Lena.
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February 22, 2021 at 07:34AM