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Ishiuchi Miyako's Grainy World at Yokohama Museum of Art

  • Ishiuchi Miyako - Gorakuso #2, 1986-87
  • Silken Dreams #50
December 11, 2017
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via this email: andreja.velimirovic@widewalls.ch

The Yokohama Museum of Art assembled an impressive selection of artworks that will be displayed in the institution’s next exhibition – Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image.

As the name of the show reveals, the woman of the hour will be Ishiuchi Miyako, a Japanese photographer who has been producing masterworks since the late 1970s.

As many experts of the medium will tell you, Ishiuchi Miyako is one of the most highly acclaimed still active photographers in the world. Among many honors she received during her lifetime, she was the first Asian woman to receive the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography.

Yokohama #8, 1975-76 / ひろしまHiroshima #106
Left: Ishiuchi Miyako – Kanazawa Hakkei, Yokohama #8, 1975-76 / Right: Ishiuchi Miyako – ひろしま/hiroshima #106 Donor: Hashimoto, H., 2016

Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image

The photographs on display will demonstrate Ishiuchi Miyako‘s usual themes and her unique photo-making style. Consisting of approximately 240 items from her early years to some later never-before-shown photos, this exhibition will center on the grain, one of Ishiuchi’s artistic keywords that defined her practice.

The documentary images of abandoned buildings, scars and silk kimono era beloved by women of the Taisho and Showa will all be making an appearance.

Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image will also feature the artist’s personal articles, some of which belonged to her mother. Furthermore, the show will present items that belonged to atomic-bomb victims, a terrifying matter that captivated Miyako’s artistic attention for quite some time now.

Shortly put, Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image will introduce us to the world of this renowned Japanese photographer, in which she uncompromisingly tackled topics of existence and absence, people’s memories and vestiges of time. Interestingly, the very city where the upcoming exhibition will take place has a special place in the artist’s heart:

The forty years since I set up my darkroom in Yokohama have passed quickly. The photographs born there are now vintage prints, the particles of their grain conspicuous after digesting their fill of air and time. My images, launched in Yokosuka, convey their individual spirits to merge history, the human body and things left behind and set off into the future.


Bayside Courts #67, 1988-89 / Shiranui no Yubi #1, 2014
Left: Ishiuchi Miyako – Bayside Courts #67, 1988-89 / Right: Ishiuchi Miyako – Shiranui no Yubi #1, 2014

The Story Behind Her Photography

The history behind Ishiuchi Miyako’s practice is a long and interesting story that eventually saw her become a leading individual of her generation’s contemporary photography.

She began taking photos on her own after studying weaving at Tama Art University, relying on no formal education in the medium. Her coarse-grained, monochrome pictures of Yokosuka, the city where the photographer spent her adolescence, quickly started to attract a lot of attention within the art community.

Ishiuchi Miyako’s images of former red-light districts were also rather popular at the time.

As the years passed along, she launched countless series and collections based on various challenging themes. Her ひろしま /hiroshima really stands out, however, as this project dealt with clothing worn by the victims of an atomic bomb attack.

Another highlight surely is the series depicting the personal influence of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Frida by Ishiuchi #107 / Mother's #35
Left: Ishiuchi Miyako – Frida by Ishiuchi #107, 2012 / Right: Ishiuchi Miyako – Mother’s #35, 2002

Ishiuchi Miyako Art Exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art

As if the selection of the fine art photography was not enough to turn this event into a must-see show, this year actually marks the 40th anniversary of Ishiuchi Miyako’s solo exhibition Yokosuka Story, a show that saw the Japanese photographer make her artistic debut.

Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image is open to the public between the 9th of December 2017 and the 4th of March 2018 at The Yokohama Museum of Art in Yokohama, Japan.

Featured images: Ishiuchi Miyako – yokohama gorakuso #2, 1986-87; Silken Dreams #50 heiyo-kasuri-meisen, Kiryu, 2011, collection of Arts Maebashi. All images courtesy of Yokohama Museum of Art / © Ishiuchi Miyako.