Prime Edition

A masterclass in light and shadow
NIDHI GUPTA  19th Aug 2012

#22, 1988 © Tokhiro Sato / Tasveer

okihiro Sato's 1992 photograph titled #170, Manji, would be just another ordinary black-and-white shot of a vacant, empty house in the middle of nowhere, but for those tiny dots, puncturing the frame, giving it a mysterious, magical quality. The house now seems to float on a bed of stars, elevated into a whole other plane of existence. Certainly, there is a depth of time in this canvas, imbued with a fleeting presence, perhaps that of the photographer himself.

Photography is often known as the art of writing with light. From the classical wisdom of the 'golden hour' to flashbulbs and adjusting exposure levels and shutter speeds, illumination is of technical essence to even the basest form of photography. But when it becomes a primary object within the narrative of a snapshot, it could go far beyond its usual supporting role. Tasveer's latest exhibition, Hikari (Japanese for 'light'), explores an entire culture's construction and deconstruction of this element.

This five-member group show, constituted of photographers from Japan, illustrates magnanimously the usage of light as both a revelatory device and a cloak. Very interesting is Shiho Kito's journey to India, and particularly to Ahmedabad, that inspired her to document two tales – 'Pikari' and 'Walls'. Pikari, meaning shining or flashing, is a sparkling tribute to the city of Ahmedabad, aglow with light bulbs or firecrackers, a narrative of celebration. This is contrasted with Walls, a meditation on separation and protection, the two primary objectives of building enclosures. Her sitters for this series were people she related to, but consciously disengaged with through curtains, drapes and an informed use of illumination and shadows, much like the then 'warring' communities in Gujarat.

Kimiko Yoshida's entrancing frames, that (mis)use haute couture garments and accessories to create self-portraits, are quirky, pointed takes on seminal artistic representations through history. In Painting (Minatour by Picasso), she plants two yellow stiletto pumps on a woman's head as horns, in the process inverting the myth of that powerful symbol of masculinity. Jean Clouet's rendering of France's king Francois I is reworked in a dark canvas, where you can only see a purple shroud studded with tiny bulbs, a purple face and white, glowing lips. Yoshida is essentially making a statement against preconceived notions of identity and community, replacing the huge question – 'Who am I?' with – 'How many am I?'

What we derive from this resurgence in photography in Asia is a paradigm shift in the aesthetics of engagement – those living in exile, often willfully outside their motherland – but with an eye to their ‘origins’, their upbringing and their conditioning — Rahaab Allana

Ken Kitano also uses portraiture to comment on iconisation in communities. His mega-portraits are aggregates of a group of people, be they soldiers guarding Tian'anmen Square in Beijing or 23 Hindu pilgrims in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. He has then placed these images on top of each other to simplistically comment on how a dozen, or a few thousand, individuals get bracketed into a single parenthesis of identity, and then become a symbol for posterity.

Yuji Obata's Homage to Wilson A. Bentley is an exploration of the transient nature of journeys of both humans and snowflakes, in all their symmetrical beauty. In this tribute, he captures children, horses and snowflakes in various states of mobility, be it through the atmosphere, skating on a frozen lake or galloping through arctic winds. Finally, Sato's frames are quite simply a treatise on presence and absence. He leaves the shutter open for much longer, uses torches or hand-mirrors to characterise his florid landscapes and leaves before the camera can capture him too.

This exhibition is not a documentation of Japanese contemporary artists, but rather an exploration of how this trope is visited and re-visited by this culture. As Rahaab Allana puts it: "What we derive from this resurgence in photography in Asia is a paradigm shift in the aesthetics of engagement – those living in exile, often willfully outside their motherland – but with an eye to their 'origins', their upbringing and their conditioning."

Venue: Gallery Art Motif

Date: Until 21 August

Timing:11am -6pm

 
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