Born in Dover, Delaware, USA in 1970.
Lives and works in Kanazawa, Japan.
John Tamura Wells is a visual artist and documentary filmmaker working primarily as a painter, photographer, and video artist. From 1988 to 1993 he attended Antioch College where he studied painting with Gary Bower and film with Zeinabu irene Davis. In 1993 he moved to Kyoto, Japan, and from 2006 to 2014 worked as an assistant to Daniel Kelly. In 2012 he moved with his family to Kanazawa. He is currently a graduate student of visual anthropology, media and documentary practices at the University of Münster.
His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Japan and Mongolia, and his video works made with Danish artists’ group Superflex have been exhibited in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. As a filmmaker and designer he has worked with a number of other artists including El Anatsui, Sarah Brayer, Bruce Harding, Daniel Kelly, Peter MacIntosh, Pedro Reyes, Joel Stewart, Superflex, Brian Williams and Xijing Men. His paintings, prints, and photographs are in private and public collections in Japan, Mongolia, and the USA.
My views of contemporary art are influenced by perspectives of visual and economic anthropology. My work seeks a balance between forces that affect my artistic production – my status as a Western immigrant artist, husband and father living more than half my life in Japan, the expectations of Japanese and non-Japanese audiences for the work of a Westerner, the legacies of Orientalism and Japonism, and the ever-changing status of artworks between what Igor Kopytoff calls the processes of singularization – where artworks adopt a personal, sentimental, or sacred form of value – and commoditization.
My work is a process that continues to explore and evolve a number of different themes over time, two of which include Japanese yen notes and Japanese gardens. My series focusing on the imagery of Japanese yen notes began as a way of contemplating the relationship between money and contemporary art, the concept of money itself, and its relationship to history through the printing of historical images of important people on paper as a magical form of power creation. The theme of currency has expanded into a simultaneous exploration of electricity as a metaphor for power. My landscapes and still lifes of Japanese gardens, interiors, and objects both incorporate and are in some cases a departure from figurative realism utilizing highly saturated colors to produce an enhanced optical experience on the verge of abstraction.
1988-1993 B.A., Antioch College. Yellow Springs, OH.
Currently enrolled in the master program “Visual Anthropology, Media and Documentary Practices” at the University of Münster.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Electric Yen Zone, Gallery Muku, Kanazawa, June 3 to 8, 2016.
In Flight Art/Landing, Cafe Foodelica, Kyoto, October 9 to 25, 2015.
Ninjin Jyanai, Gallery Muku, Kanazawa, February 6 to 11, 2015.
Ninjin Jyanai, Cafe Foodelica, Kyoto, February 14 to March 16, 2014.
Zen Art Machine, Jam Sake Bar, Kyoto, July 6 to August 31, 2013.
Ninjin Jyanai, Jam Sake Bar, Kyoto, August 19 to November 10, 2012.
Nostalgia For Nationalist Squid and Other Tales, Mongolian Theater Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March, 2002.
Selected Group Exhibitions
Fotografika 6: Emotion, SoHo Art Gallery, Osaka, September 10 to 15, 2013.
Shades of Black, Urbanguild, Kyoto, July 6, 2013.
Transnational Art 2013, Enokojima Art, Culture and Creative Center, Osaka, Japan, January 29 to February 3, 2013.
White Heat, Kanagawa Kenmin Hall Gallery Yokohama, April 1999.
Other Notable Exhibitions
Video artworks created with Superflex exhibited at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, June 2016 to March 2017 as part of the exhibition Superflex: The Liquid State.
“Artist Holds First Exhibition in Kanazawa”, Hokkoku Shinbun, February 7, 2015.
“American Artist Paints Kanazawa”, Hokkoku Shinbun, February 1, 2015.
Tsatsral, B.: “Con Art Opens Photo Exhibition,” UB Post, March 14, 2002.
Superflex: The Kombucha Papers (video) on Vimeo, February 2017.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Official Tumblr, September 19, 2014.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Official Tumblr, January 10, 2014.
Con Art Center (Кон Арт Тов), Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
UB Post, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Works held in private collections in Japan, Mongolia, and the USA.