The Antwerp-based IBASHO gallery might seem an unlikely place to focus on Japanese photography, but directors Martijn van Pieterson and Annemarie Zethof have a passion for presenting the works of established artists, as well as younger talent and foreign photographers who are clearly inspired by the country and culture. “We have come across so many talented Japanese photographers since we started with the gallery, but our annual program provides for only a couple of solo exhibitions,” they explain. “That is why we decided to start curating annual group exhibitions showing new and unknown works.” Their first survey show, entitled Female Force from Japan, presents some of the country’s most promising female talent; here are the five of the most outstanding examples.
1. Hiromi Kakimoto
Osaka-born Hiromi Kakimoto fully realises an image in her head before embarking on a project, as if she is devising a single frame in a complete story. In her series Little World she employs sun-drenched, over exposed frames to present a fanciful, empty world full of joyous yet strangely melancholy scenes. A room is filled with baby pink balloons, or a paper aeroplane glides through an endless blue sky. She captures a beautiful stillness that seems reminiscent of a hazy, evocative memory that cannot be fully recalled.
2. Tokyo Rumando
As a former model, Tokyo Rumando is all too used to being the object of somebody else’s gaze. In her clandestine self-portraiture she uses the art of ‘un-dressing up’ to project multiple personas and identities upon her own body, thus reclaiming her own image. Her series Orphée makes a nod to Jean Cocteau’s interpretation of the Greek myth, which presents death as a seductive princess. Rumando uses multiple props and a large circular mirror to set up her optically fascinating photographs and reveal multi-faceted personas, while often directly referencing the famous erotic photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.
3. Mikiko Hara
Using a 1930s German-made Ikonta camera, Mikiko Hara eschews any precise set-up, instead capturing unknowing passers by without even looking through her viewfinder. She is particularly taken with shooting everyday women going about their business, although of course she cannot be sure if her images will turn out well at all. “I can say all of my photographs were taken by a mere accident,” she says, and it is this element of chance that makes her photos all the more compelling, as they could have so easily failed to exist at all.
4. Yukari Chikura
As well as being an accomplished photographer, Yukari Chikura has a background as a musician, composer, computer programmer and designer. She straddles the worlds of photojournalism and fine art, and has a formidable ability to capture the beauty of natural phenomena and the human form. Fluorite Fantasia is an intimate project that explores her own grieving process surrounding the death of her father. The surreal images feature covered faces, mysterious landscapes and images of the mineral that her father gifted to her, as if she is attempting to piece together his fading legacy.
5. Akiko Takizawa
“I believe that it is this frantic whispering of death that pushes me to take photographs, and enables me to continue living,” says Akiko Takizawa. Although she has lived in London since 1993, her work often revolves around her homeland, where she explores Japanese mythology and folklore surrounding the permeable barrier between this world and the next. Takizawa employs the century-old collotype process to create rich, grainy images that throw her surroundings into a stark relief of light and shadow – which could certainly serve as a metaphor for her preoccupation with life and death. In many of her images she captures effigies of spirituality, such as the Torii gate and shrine tokens, which act as ghostly expressions of our transient existence.
Female Force from Japan runs until Jul 2, 2017 at IBASHO Gallery, Antwerp.