Through my research into Japanese photography I have found it interesting how readily accepted experimental processes and ideas are accepted by viewers in Japan. Photographers like Daido Moriyama, Araki and Masahisa Fukase have become cult figures in their native Japan, whilst still not receiving the attention outside of their own country. Moriyama is beginning to find an audience in the West, but it has taken until he is well into his 80's for his work to gain a foothold in the art world outside of Japan.
Although abstraction in Photography is not a new concept, even in the west for example Francis Bruguière was experimenting with abstract photography in 1926.
Japanese society seemed ready to open their minds to different forms of photographic practice which would potentially struggle to gain mainstream interest in the West.
The TV show "The Art of Japanese Life" hosted by Dr James Fox, posed some interesting ideas, especially in relation to the history of Art in Japan, but more specifically the idea of abstraction in mainstream culture. In the show Dr Fox looks at one of the oldest known Japanese paintings, Haboku sansei by the artist Sesshu Toyo, 1495.
Not only is it one of the earliest Japanese paintings it is also one the earliest examples of abstract painting. (The Art of Japanese Life, 2018). Another example comes a 100 years later in the form of the Pine Trees silk screen by Hasegawa Tohaku, 1595.
This shows that at a time when Western artists were chasing realism, Japanese artists were experimenting with techniques to produce more abstract work. What is interesting is that the art is at odds with general Japanese cultural norms. Japanese society is often quite regimented and reserved, but their art is often experimental, (The Art of Japanese Life, 2018).
This filters through into the photography and goes someway to explain the popularity of Moriyama et al. Japanese art has always been about feelings and emotion, with technical detail a secondary thought. The first purpose of the image is to instil an emotion or feeling as opposed to showing something in detail or documenting its exact form. Japanese artists have also been interested in the everyday or mundane subject matter, whether it is trees in early paintings or the streets of Tokyo in Moriyama's work.
My recent work has been influenced by this style of Japanese Art, although I am heavily influenced by the photographic work, I have always studied Japanese painting and Japanese Films. Japanese films are often similar to other forms of art in that they often deal with the mundane, but use experimental storytelling and unconventional technical practices to move the story along. One of the aspects of Japanese films that has influenced my recent work is the treatment of dream sequences. One of my favourite directors, Takeshi Kitano, often inserts dream sequences into his movies without any indication.
In traditional Hollywood films there is often a technical or visual device used to indicate a dream or break from the core narrative, but in Japanese cinema, this is not always the case. I am not entirely sure why this is the case, but i find it interesting that it keeps you guessing and keeps you intrigued in the story (Richie, 2012).
Art Blart. (2018). Exhibition: ‘Licht-Bilder (Light images). Fritz Winter and Abstract Photography’ at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. [online] Available at: https://artblart.com/2012/12/04/exhibition-licht-bilder-fritz-winter-and-abstract-photography-at-the-pinakothek-der-moderne-munich/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].
En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Japanese painting. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_painting [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].
Fernández, G. (2018). [online] Theartwolf.com. Available at: http://www.theartwolf.com/landscapes/sesshu-toyo-landscape-ink-broken.htm [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].
Richie, D. (2012). A hundred years of japanese film. New York: Kodansha.
The Art of Japanese Life. (2018). [video] Directed by B. Harding, J. Ho and M. Springford. BBC Four.