Yoshiko Tanabe

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Design and Crafts (textiles)
Visual Arts (installation art)
Asia, Eastern
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June 28, 2003
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Endless nets and the beginning of life

Yoshiko Tanabe trained as a weaver before making large-scale installations from materials felt and wire. She is interested in cellular structures and invisible webs of communication, and this is reflected in both her working process and her finished pieces.
Born in 1963, Yoshiko Tanabe initially trained as a weaver before channelling her artistic skills into creating large-scale installations. Made with materials such as felt and wire, her works reflect an interest in cellular structures and invisible webs of communication and their potential continuous proliferation.

Tanabe has had solo shows in Japan and has participated in international group shows. For her first exhibition in Britain, she was invited to create an installation for Maidstone Library Gallery, UK as part of the ‘Textural Space’ project. Originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK and partly funded by Visiting Arts, UK the project included a touring show and several site-specific installations.

Tanabe’s work was constructed from knotted polypropylene wire and handmade felt. Sited in the Sculpture Court of the gallery, it measured 8 metres by 10 metres.

As curator of ‘Textual Space’, Lesley Millar writes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, that Tanabe’s ‘Net Way’ is ‘created by a hyperbolic surface, which is endlessly repeated, the internal space of the structure replicating the external net structure’. As she says, ‘There is no perceivable limit to these communication webs and Tanabe’s work can be seen also as having no beginning and no end and no defined centre. By this means she is asking us as viewers to continue the process of replication within our imagination.’

Tanabe uses malleable wire of brass and coloured polypropylene to enable her to use a knotting technique she has devised to create the structure of her installations. This technique also enables her to work in a confined space, first making individual units which are then attached together to form large-scale works.

As Millar points out, ‘The initial working process involves minimum energy but the form has the potential to expand infinitely, forming a parallel with cellular multiplication, exponentially increasing the energy requirement as the work grows.’

She states that Tanabe sees the work as reflecting the generation of early life in an environment without gravity, using the analogy of the beginnings of life forms in the ocean. Computer generated images of fractals and artificial life have also inspired Tanabe, Miller suggests, and points out that the artist’s ‘continuing reference to cellular structures, and that these can be effected and transformed by environmental conditions, have resulted in a desire to make work that is changeable within each exhibition space’.

Source: Based on texts by Lesley Millar in the ‘Textural Space’ catalogue and website
Author: Diana Yeh,Visiting Arts


Yoshiko Tanabe was born in 1963. She studied at the Kyoto City University of Arts, graduating in 1988. She currently teaches as a lecturer at the Seian University of Art & Design. She has held solo exhibitions in Japan and has participated in group shows in Belgium, Canada, Australia, UK and Slovakia.



Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ‘Textural Space’, contemporary Japanese textile art, Foyer Gallery and James Hockey Gallery, Surrey, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton, and Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, UK 2000 ‘Kyoto Art & Craft’, Museum of Kyoto 1999 ‘International Textile Competition’, Museum of Kyoto 1998 ´Creating Kyoto´ Kurondani Temple, Shinnyodo Temple, Munetada Shrine 1998 ‘The Focus of 11 Contemporary Artists’, Museum of Modern Art, Shiga 1998 ‘Imaginations ´98´ Gastuiskapel, Poperinge, Belgium 1998 ‘3D Miniature Works Floating Object,’ Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo 1997 ‘The Filling of New Arts’, Takashimaya Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto 1997 ‘Common Space 2,’ Pezinok Central Park, Slovakia 1997 ‘3D Miniature Works XI’, Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo 1996 ‘Fibre as Art’, Gallery Space 21, Tokyo 1996 ‘3D Miniature Works X’, Wacoal Ginza Art Space, Tokyo 1995 ‘Textile Miniature Works’ touring Belgium, Canada, Australia 1995 ‘International Triennale of Tapestry’, Central Museum of Textiles Poland 1995 ‘Contemporary Direction in Japanese Fibre Art’, Kyoto Municipal Gallery


Exhibition / Installation,
1997 Gallery In The Blue, Utsunomiya Gallery Gallery, Kyoto 1996 Gallery Maronie, Kyoto


2000 Philip Morris Art Award
1998 Kyoto Arts Festival, Grand Prix


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Textural Space

Contemporary Japanese Textile Art

(01 April 01 - 31 December 01)


Textural Space

Website of ‘Textural Space’ project originated by the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, UK
Endless Net Way