(Exhibition “A Glance at the Contemporary World: Japanese Photography from the 8th decade to the present day” at M. Žilinskas Art Gallery) Kotryna Džilavjanaitė, 2007 05 25

Hiroh Kikai, “Butoh Dancer”

Kazuo Kitai, “Fisherman“

Nobuyoshi Araki, “Metro Love“

Mitsugu Ohnishi , “Long Holiday”

Yutaka Takanashi, “Yodobashi“

Ryuji Miyamoto, “Cobe after the earthquake“

Toshio Shibata, “Curoiso City, Tochigi Prefecture“

In brief: The exotic culture of Japan is revealed through the abundance of images which breathe with traditions and habits of several thousand years. The usual allegory of Japan is always theatrical – it may appear as geisha with a thirteen-stringed koto in hands; like an actor covered by No mask; o like a samurai with a sword. Meanwhile, the image of Japan of the 21st century is constructed using keywords of contemporary civilisation, such as robot, Sony, jakuza, Toyota or anime. New myths are created, but Japan remains in our conscience as a country of contracts and bright colours.


The retrospective photography exhibition of Japan, which is presently open at M. Žilinskas gallery, shows the more objective and much more daily face of the country. The majority of exhibited photographs do not have the Japanese aura which is usual to us. The spirit of globalisation is so bright here that one may even doubt of looking at reflections of Japan rather than some other mega country.


“A Glance at the Contemporary World” presents Japanese photography from the eighth decade to the present days. The content of the exhibition is based on the category of all-consuming time. Artists are in haste to capture the seconds of changing surroundings, they compare them with yesterday feeling nostalgia. According to the genre, the exhibition may be divided into two parts – the changing landscape and the changing society.


The topic of society is analysed through the concept of a group or mass rather than an individual - artists Hiromi Tsuchida, Mitsugu Ohnishi, Shuji Yamada photograph gatherings of people from high level creating panoramic views, and it is impossible to see features of individual faces very often. An interesting exception is the series by Hiroh Kikai “Persona”, in which he focuses on the search of personality and character.


Photographers creating photographs of landscapes express the problem of change even more vividly. Rapidly rising skyscrapers, engineering constructions, views of industrial constructions gain organic and almost human features. The changes of Japanese culture are reflected by the cityscapes. A metaphoric image is revealed in photographs of Norio Kabayashi, Takashi Homma, Yutaka Takanashi, Eiji Ina – the old Japan leaves the silkworm’s cocoon and mutates into an aggressive steel robot-butterfly. The silent philosophy of province is juxtaposed to the technocratic pathos of the city in some works.


After viewing the exhibition, one may observe that the photographs have many common features. The strong aesthetics of photographs attracts the eye: harsh contrasts of black and white, bright colours, diverse effects of facture, plastics of form and even an illusion of volume. Experiments with means sometimes kill the liveliness of the thought. Nonetheless, the glance of Japanese photographers at the contemporary world is positive and silently critical. Artists are searching for the lost time and tame the futuristic spirit of a huge city simultaneously.

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