Three celebrated masters of Japanese photography are to present their work of erotica at HOCA (The Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation). The exhibition is entitled Up Close: Eroticism in the works of Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki. As the name suggests, the focus will be on the erotic artworks of the three renowned artists. Their work explores sexual experience as a metaphor for life, while taking in consideration the shift of Japanese photography towards snapshot compositions and intimate portraits of contemporary existence. The show will be presented at the multipurpose art and events location, The Space in Hong Kong. For the duration of the exhibition, a parallel program of daily documentary screenings, relating to the Japanese avant-garde, are to be displayed.
The often paradoxical nation of Japan has a complex and, somewhat, unorthodox relationship with sex and the sexual culture. A thriving, often fetishistic erotic sub-culture has become part of the everyday life for many, all the while strict obscenity laws and sexual repression are at large. Looking back through history, sex and art have been connected ever since the development of Shunga, which is the Japanese term for erotic art, dating back to the Heian period (794 to 1185). The erotic themes of the exhibited artists pay a sort of an homage to the evolution of Shunga through the centuries, focusing on the post-war period and the collective trauma as the conceptual framework.
Eikoh Hosoe is a Japanese photographer and filmmaker, widely considered as one of the forefathers of avant-garde contemporary photography. His gritty photographs in high contrast and exploration of the corporeal have led the medium away from the documentary nature towards a surreal and expressionistic aesthetic. Turning away from the trauma of war, Hosoe emphasized the universal experience of love and sex. His ambiguous narratives bear a subtle sexual tension aimed towards the drama of individual experience. Psychologically charged images by Hosoe often explore subjects like death, irrationality and erotic obsession. The artist has received numerous awards and recognitions for his contribution to art and photography.
Daido Moriyama began his career by having his famous snapshots presented in various photography magazines, ever since 1964. Greatly influenced by Eikoh Hosoe, Moriyama worked as his assistant while becoming an avid photographer himself. Daido Noriyama is renowned for creating images which display the breakdown of traditional values in post-war Japan. His collection of photographs, Nippon gekijō shashinchō, depicted the darker sides of urban life, displaying the less-seen parts of cities. The artist’s distinct style and aesthetic broke the conventions of traditional documentary photography. Portraying actors and nightclub performers, Noriyama’s abstract imagery focused on the erotic subtext consuming the streets of Tokyo. Experimenting with light, shade and composition, the Japanese photographer developed a practice of capturing snapshots without looking through the camera’s viewfinder, thus introducing a unique element of chance into his work.
Noted for his exploring of the hidden eroticism beneath Japan’s polite society, Nobuyoshi Araki is one of the most prolific contemporary Japanese photographers. In contrast to the subtlety of his peers, Araki often uses the up-close, personal approach, depicting naked women gazing emptily into the camera. With over 40 years of capturing women in various states of undress, the artist keeps developing his style and incorporating new elements into his work. From partly covered females in traditional robes, to rope, bondage and women hung disconcertingly from the ceiling, Araki often includes the shock value in his work. Even though the models are always consenting and the artist’s intentions are mostly playful, his artwork is surely not for everyone. When his work shifted towards kinbaku (the beauty of tight binding), he painted over the exposed genitals of his models with black ink, because of the obscenity laws in Japan, which forbid the display of pubic hair in images. Araki implements an element of danger into the sexual act displayed through his work, questioning the veracity of the image.
Anyone appreciative of the erotic photography should definitely mark this show as a must-see. The three masters of the genre will present their oeuvre which speaks louder than any words. Eroticism has played a big part in the Japanese culture and history, and these three artists depict its influence masterfully. The exhibition of Japanese photography named Up Close: Eroticism in the works of Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki at HOCA is on view from 16 – 25 October, 2015, at The Space, Hong Kong. Catalogue named “Up Close” will be available for sale along with 30 signed Polaroid photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki and a silkscreen print (edition of 50) by Daido Moriyama. The proceeds will go to HOCA Foundation’s future exhibitions and projects.
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Daido Moriyama - How to Create a Beautiful Picture 5: A Journey to a Corner, 1987
Nobuyoshi Araki - Love on the Left Eye, 2014
Eikoh Hosoe - Ordeal by Roses #32, 1961 / ca. 1970
Nobuyoshi Araki - Love on the Left Eye, 2014
Left: Daido Moriyama - How to Create a Beautiful Picture 6: Tights in Shimotakaido, 1987 - 1990 / Right: Eikoh Hosoe - Embrace #40, 1970
All images of Nobuyoshi Araki are courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
All images of Eikoh Hosoe are courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo
All images of Daido Moriyama are courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
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