Born in Kochi Prefecture in 1938, Toshiko Okanoue was a creator of striking photo collages with a surreal aesthetic. Surrealism draws on images from one’s subconscious to create imagery that often defies logical comprehension, while photo collage combines a series of visuals to make a single composition.
Okanoue had no formal art training when she started making collages as a fashion design student in 1950 until meeting poet and artist Shuzo Takiguchi. A leading figure in Japan’s surrealism movement, Takiguchi facilitated opportunities for young artists to gain exposure and present their work.
Mentored by Takiguchi and influenced by the work of multimedia artist Max Ernst, Okanoue created over 100 works and exhibited her creations in Tokyo over the next few years. Photos used in her compositions came from magazines left behind by Allied forces in post-World War II Japan, such as Life, Time and Vogue. However, this came to an end upon her marriage in 1957, when she retired from creating and exhibiting to concentrate on her family.
Okanoue enjoyed a renaissance after being rediscovered in the 1990s by historian Ryuichi Kaneko, curator of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Her work has subsequently won new acclaim and has been exhibited in Japan and abroad. Currently, the “Miracle of Silence” exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is showcasing Okanoue’s career, bringing together her work from various museums along with items from her personal collection.
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum; 5-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Shirokanedai Station. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ¥900. Closed on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. 03-5777-8600; www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp