Ozawa Tsuyoshi – “The Return of” series –


“The Return of” series started in 2013 is an installation work of a story created by Ozawa combining facts on a historical figure with fictional elements. The first work from the series was “The Return of Dr.N” in 2013, connecting two distant communities of Ghana and Fukushima by channeling the footsteps of a bacteriologist, Hideyo Noguchi. “The Return of Painter F” created in Indonesia in 2015 is a story of a painter modeled on Tsuguharu Foujita, whose life was buffeted by the World War II as a war painter. “The Return of J.L.” in 2016 was produced in the Philippines, which featured John Lennon. “The Return of K.T.O.” in 2016 was created in India featuring Kakuzo Okakura, also known as Tenshin Okakura. The latest work is “The Return of S.T.” in 2020 which deals with S.T., a modern-day figure associated with Hirosaki, Ozawa enlisted the cooperation of Iranian sign artisans and musicians.

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Ozawa Tsuyoshi
Dr. N Song
6 drawings 29 x 24cm, Video (Blu-ray, DVD, HDD), 5’54”
In Ozawa’s installation piece The Return of Dr. N, Ozawa features Hideyo Noguchi (1872-1928), a bacteriologist who is known as the face on the Japanese ¥1000 bill. Noguchi was born in Fukushima, the town that recently gained international recognition as the land devastated by the 2011 nuclear catastrophe.
The creation of The Return of Dr. N lead Ozawa to Ghana, Africa, the land where Noguchi himself traveled to in order to study Yellow Fever, which also was the disease that subsequently took Noguchi’s life. Noguchi, despite suffering severe burns to the left hand at a young age, attained critical acclaim and international recognition through perseverance in his work, but was also subject to scrutiny for his occasional recklessness in his research and experimentation. Ozawa traced the footsteps of Noguchi in Ghana.
Blending fictional aspects and a personal take on Noguchi’s life, Ozawa created Dr. N, a reckless yet witty character whose livelihood extends between Japan and Africa. The life story of Dr. N, conjured by Ozawa, is depicted through the style seen on billboard paintings in the streets in Africa, which are created by artists in Ghana, based off of Ozawa’s drawings. Also to be presented is a transnational musical collaboration in the form of a song about Noguchi’s life, improvised and written by a Ghanaian musician, accompanied by a choir from Fukushima that sings the chorus section.
The installation, The Return of Dr. N consists of 8 canvases (250cm x 150cm each) and a video of the musical collaboration of the story of Dr. N. Ozawa connects two distant communities by channeling the footsteps of Noguchi. It is an attempt to present an alternative viewpoint to various unyielding issues and problems through art and societal involvement. His installation is created through the collaborative effort of locals in these two distant communities of Ghana and Japan.
The Return of Dr. N is also an artist questioning his role in facing the realities of Fukushima post the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. This piece invites the audience to see the past and present by fusing historical facts and fiction. It brings the viewer on a journey to witness Ghana, and Japan, and ultimately contemplate what Fukushima is today.
The Return of Dr.N was exhibited at Yokohama Creativecity Center, May 25 – June 9, 2013, in conjunction with the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
Ozawa Tsuyoshi
Painter F Song
4 K video, 12’08”
Edition 3
This exhibition will be the second in Ozawa’s “The Return of...” series, again using paintings and video to create a fictionalized story of the pre-war and post-war life of “Painter F,” a Japanese painter who served in Indonesia during the war. In 1943, the Japanese military occupying Indonesia established the Culture Center aimed at pacifying the local population. Art education was among the activities at these, and it has been said that this had some influence on the subsequent post-war development of the Indonesian art world.

To develop his story for this exhibition, Ozawa began by researching the actual Japanese war painters. He used archival documents and other research materials to create a multi-perspective dialog that includes not only the Japanese point of view, but also the view of Indonesian art historians, painters, and musicians—a process that became collaborative throughout, from story development to the creation and completion of the final work.

It might be worth considering the similarities between the diverse systems of value that characterize our modern age and the situation of Painter F, who during the war years was obliged to move in step with a single point of view but after the war experienced a radical turn of mind. And, in our increasingly globalized world, for people living in Japan and Indonesia looking back on history with a reciprocal perspective, the act of creating a work that imagines “a past that might have been” may be a good way to deepen knowledge and understanding of the other, thus becoming a call for future new creativity and connection.

(Reference: Shiseido Gallery press release of The Return of Painter F)
Ozawa Tsuyoshi
The Return of J.L. Song
8 paintings 150 x 250 cm, 1 drawing 52 x 51.5 cm, 4K Video 9’32”
The installation, “The Return of J.L.” consists of 8 paintings and a video work based on a life story of John Lennon back to life in 2080, 100 years since his death. For the paintings, Ozawa worked with an atelier of billboard painters, owned by the Sagmit family, and collaborated with the Philippine artist Teresa Barraza for the music to the lyrics that Ozawa and his wife wrote. The song was composed with the structure of Beatles music. The words translated to the Filipino language by Ness Roque-Lumbres and sung by a quartet of blind musicians from the Balikatan Multi-purpose Cooperative of the Blind. To decide a name of the band, they made a few suggestions and one of the idea was “vision”. Ozawa named the band as “The Visions”, with its connotations of sight, and a positive future.

Patrick D. Flores, who is professor of Art Studies at the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila and adjunct curator at the National Gallery Singapore, has mentioned about “The Return of J.L.” as “It is J.L. who reconfigures both the Philippines and Japan as sites of the political formation of subjectivities. This is a layered translation, mutating from disparate interventions. Such a dense ecology of relations offers a complexity to this project and encrusts the desire for a return not with the details of nostalgia but with the inscriptions of sympathies. There is a sadness that surrounds the performance of this return, an equivalent effort of the Philippine agency to reciprocate the inventiveness of a Japanese artist, and all released and then withdrawn by the figure of J.L, the exceptional trope of melancholy: figurative, transposing, missing.”

The lyrics Ozawa wrote refrain “He who dreams of an ideal world”, “He who’ll come back from a hundred deaths” several times. In this work, Ozawa tells a story of the man “he who dreams of an ideal world” even it may be impossible to achieve, and for that “He who”ll come back from a hundred deaths”, through real story about the historical figure, fictional elements, and also with the collaboration with various people.
Ozawa Tsuyoshi
The Return of K.T.O.
8 paintings 150 x 250 cm, 8 drawings 18.5 x 25 cm, 1 Video 11’31”
Kakuzo Okakura (1963-1913) was born in Yokohama, art critic and philosopher who had a great influence on development of modern Japanese art amid the rapid modernization and westernization in Meiji era. He was one of the principal founders of the Toyo Art School, established Nihon Bijutsuin (Japanese Art Academy), become curator of the Chinese and Japanese Art division of the Bostom Museum of Fine Arts. In 1901, Okakura traveled to Kolkata, India and became a good friend with Rabindranath Tagore, one of the India’s great poets o the time. After returning from India, Okakura found Izura in Ibaraki prefecture and built his residence and Rokkakudo (Six-sided hut) at Izura. In 1912, he revisited India and met a poet Priyambada Devi Banerjee. They exchanged letters until his death in 1913.

Ozawa visited Kolkata to tracing Okakura’s footsteps and created a story that Okakura returns to the near future world. Ozawa commissioned local billboard painters to paint based on his drawing and collaborated with local musician to make a video.

Rustom Baharucha, a director, writer, critic based in India who has cooperated in this work commented as below.

Having facilitatedThe Return of K.T.O. in Calcutta, where, arguably, the spirit of Okakura never left the city in the first place, can we anticipate “The Return of Tusyoshi Ozawa”himself? Or will he, like Okakura, get lost in the frenetic temporality of the global art world? He can one imagine even more challenging intercultural projects across location, history and culture where artists like billboard painters and local musicians from Accra, Jogjakarta, Manila, Calcutta, and beyond, can meet to create new cosmopolitical solidarities? While this may seem lika a Fantasy, The Return of K.T.O. enables one to imagine it in the first place.
Ozawa Tsuyoshi
S.T. Song
Video 11'53"
Edition 3
The latest work in the series connects Hirosaki to Iran. In making the work, Ozawa found himself at the mercy of world events. For example, rising tensions following the U.S.’s killing of an Iranian military commander in January 2020 led to a travel ban to Iran, and then, just as restrictions were being lifted, a new ban was imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Thus Ozawa’s request to shoot in Shiraz, where the subject of this work, Shuji Terayama, had taken part in an art festival, was denied. Miraculously, the work was completed thanks to the support and cooperation of numerous people, with whom Ozawa developed a relationship of mutual trust during two research trips to Iran. These included the members of Otagh Band, the painter Mohammad Ali Heddat, a team of Iranian cameramen who provided remote shooting support, and the coordinator Megumi Shimizu, who displayed great resourcefulness in making last-minute arrangements. Kaoru Osanai’s Tsugaru-jamisen music combined with the electric sounds of Otagh Band created a link between the scenery of Japan and Iran.

(Cited from Artist's official website)