”Ma” The essence of space with dense atmosphere


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As Masaaki Aihara is known for photographing the dynamic Australian wilderness, it may seem strange that he is documenting Japanese landscapes. Although it is said that Tasmania and Hokkaido seem similar, the landscapes of the Australian continent, such as desert and tropical rain forest, which are tough and wild, are so different from those of Japan. However, his mission is to document “the Earthrait” (Earth’s portrait - an expression created by Aihara), and he is not just photographing [the landscape of] another country, but is merely selecting another subject in another location on Earth. Or, it is only a slight shift of view point if it is considered from a wider scale such as the universe as a whole. However, it took a rather long time for Aihara to redirect his eyes to Japan.

In the beginning [of his career], Aihara photographed various regions of Japan as a student. Then in Australia, he felt such a large scale of nature that it gave him an experience of being a part of the universe. Since this experience, not many things touched him back home in Japan. Aihara, at that time, might have felt that the four seasons and the delicate beauty of Japan were not as spectacular as what he saw [and experienced] in Australia. Years have passed since and he held a large exhibition in Australia in 2004. This exhibition gave him an opportunity to reflect on his own work and direct his view [back] to Japan
When Aihara focused his eyes on the island of Japan, he discovered beauty in the abundance of water and green [in the Japanese landscape]. When approaching the islands of Japan by aeroplane from Australia, it looked like a pale mist was embracing them. Aihara realised that the moisture in the air creates the distinctive colours of Japan and composes contrasts. Images Aihara captured were snow, mist, rain, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and he saw these compose the true face of “Shizukuno kuni”or “the country of dew “ (or Spirit of Nippon), the country that is created by [drops of] water with rich and delicate colours.

Aihara tries to capture Japan once again with an original technique he acquired through his experience in Australia that is to communicate with nature and express what he discovered from it. What one would notice when looking at his Japanese landscape works is aesthetic consciousness expressed in each composition. In particular, the use of blank space (“Ma”) and its expression. Or one would wonder if Aihara’s consciousness to express “Ma” (space) is imprinted in his DNS as Japanese.

Surprisingly, Aihara lists Tohaku Hasegawa (1539-1610) as one of the artists he was influenced by. Hasegawa is known as a painter who worked on “fusuma” (a rectangular panel to create space in a room that can also acts as sliding door). He painted the brilliant fusuma paintings of Shoun-ji temple. He fought alone against the Kano School, the most prestigious group of Japanese painters at that time. Aihara was most moved by the expression of space in “Shōrin-zu byōbu” (circa 1595-95), a National Treasure of Japan where pine trees appear subtly and profoundly in mist. Arguably there is no other painting which expresses such air full of moistness in Japanese art history. The exquisite expression of space created by focused elements can be recognised in Aihara’s works and that is the origin of his aspiration for his own style. It is not only his natural ability to express “Ma”, but also the uncompromised attitude towards work that is a common aspect that both Hasegawa and Aihara may possess.

Australian landscape photographs by Aihara capture the uniqueness of “Ma”. That is even more fluently expressed in his Japanese landscape photographs. It could be because of the fact that we, Japanese are used to see traditional Japanese art. But it goes beyond just an average “Japanese composition”. Aihara’s work differs from the Japanese expression of “Ma”, which often leaves plain and lonely impressions. “Ma” created by Aihara is filled with strength. Aihara’s approach when he photographs is to spend plenty of time with the subject matter. In order to extract essence out from it, he eliminates excess elements as much as possible. When he photographs, he also photographs the tension in the surrounding atmosphere as vividly as possible. Once it is photographed, the subject matter will never be trimmed off during editing or manipulated on a computer desktop. As he enters into nature, the life of nature is captured by Aihara through his camera. That can be sensed from his works. You can anticipate the energy of life which patiently waits for the arrival of spring, in a cold snowy winter landscape. This is how “Ma” is not just an blank space, but it is indeed a profound space filled with condensed atmosphere.

Through his works, we feel the unexpected power and strength of Japanese nature, not just beauty and calm and gentleness.




                                                 林 美佐 キュレーター


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富士フイルムさんのXシリーズで撮影した作品を集めた、X Photograpaher,sに僕の作品が更に追加となり、X-Pro1冬編X-Pro1春&夏編
by masabike | 2013-10-09 08:08 | 写真展 | Comments(1)
Commented at 2013-10-09 17:23 x
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