Hikari: Contemporary Photography from Japan

In this exhibition we wanted to explore the notion of ‘Hikari’ (the Japanese word for light) in contemporary photography, and in particular the idea that light can be used as both a tool of illumination and as a cloak - either revealing something we might not normally see, or conversely, covering something up. 
 
Within the photographs shown here lie deceptions, interventions and the constructions of a culture for whom the concept of light is both a science and a metaphor. By reading the following essay by Rahaab Allana and the artists’ statements throughout the catalogue, you will see that whilst each photographer has their own set of ambitions, concepts and processes, they’re also held together through a shared reliance on the transformative function of light - be it deceptive or revelatory.
 
In the photographs of Yuji Obata, light reveals a moment - ephemeral, melting, passing and gone. His work refers to the history of photography, and the aesthetics and landscape of Japan. For Tokihiro Sato light is a deed, an action and an intervention. The photographer himself enters the frame as a presence shown only by light. In Shiho Kito’s photographs we see light as navigation, as embellishment and as a guide through the city - metaphoric and historical, public and private. Kimiko Yoshida’s self portraits are bathed in a blinding light, yet they conceal a truth; the bright studio light disguises the sitter whilst her own identity disappears into the guise of another. Finally, Ken Kitano’s work explores a more tactile relationship between the photographer and light, which he uses to ‘draw’ on the surface of the photographic paper, layering multiple exposures to create his composite portraits.
 
Whilst Japan is the country of origin for each of the photographers in this exhibition, it is by no means an attempt at a comprehensive survey of contemporary Japanese photography. Instead, we’ve attempted, very simply, to do two things. First, to try and see if new and interesting readings of the photographs can emerge when seen in the context of a theme (in this case, ‘Hikari’), and secondly, to investigate the ways in which this theme might be unique to the country in question.