Mika Ninagawa: Self-image

Dates : January 24 (Saturday) – May 10 (Sunday), 2015

The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art is proud to announce a solo exhibition by the internationally active photographer Mika Ninagawa. Known for her vivid and richly colorful photographs, Ninagawa is an artist who continually challenges herself, expanding in recent years into the areas of cinema, music videos and even collaborations with fashion designers, while maintaining a style that is uniquely her own. The vitality and splendor conveyed in her colors – dubbed “Ninagawa Color” – and images of teen idols and flowers stand in stark contrast to the sense of distortion, decline, stagnation and even death that she captures in other work.

At the core of the exhibition are Ninagawa’s noir series, a study of darkness and shadows that broke new ground for the artist, her PLANT A TREE series of cherry blossoms scattered on the surface of rivers created during a period of intense focus, and her monochrome self-portraits which she began at the start of her career and has added intermittently since then. Together they present a “self-image” described by Ninagawa as being “close to her raw and unguarded self”. This exhibition features about 150 pieces centered on never-before-shown works (including a new video/sound installation).

[Artist Biography]

Born in Tokyo, Japan. Winner of many awards including the Grand Prize of the 7th Hitotsuboten, the Excellent Award of the 13th Canon New Cosmos of Photography Prize, the 9th Konica Photo Encouragement Award, the 26th Kimura Ihei Award and the Ohara Museum of Art Award (the 13th VOCA 2006 Exhibition). To date, she has published about 90 books. She directed her first feature-length film SAKURAN, which opened in 2007. Critically acclaimed in Japan and abroad, the film was a special entry at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival and the 31st Hong Kong International Film Festival. The exhibition Mika Ninagawa: Earthly Flowers, Heavenly Colors (2008) was launched at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery and toured art museums throughout Japan, where it attracted some 180,000 viewers. Her second directorial effort, Helter Skelter, opened in 2012 and was awarded the Silver Kaneto Shindo Award 2012. In 2014, she was appointed as an executive board member of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2020.

[Featured Works]

Gallery I: Untitled (2015, video and sound installation) 8′ 38″ (loop)
A video installation comprising three large projections on three walls of the gallery. Music, specially composed by Keiichiro Shibuya to accompany the video images, is presented within an acoustic environment created by sound artist evala as an infinite succession of sounds that are never repeated. (Equipment support:sonihouse/Editing by: ZUMI)

Gallery II: noir (2010 -, ink-jet, C-print)
noir is a group of works that reveals the “unvarnished self” of the artist. When noir was published in 2010, it contained many never before shown photos, as well as those that appeared before in other books. These previous works embodied the changes in her perception and interpretations amidst a shifting environment and society. Since starting the series, Ninagawa has continued to add new works. This exhibition includes many that are being shown to the public for the first time.

If we look closely, we see life and death overflow to a depressing degree
Color overflows within black, black lurks within color
Our food consists of every kind of dead body
Flowers bloom in the midst of dying
Pet animals remain in their cages again today
Now life is born with reckless abandon
Continuing to live towards death day by day
It is almost dazzling
Come on, let’s go
I will live every frigid day to its full

(Mika Ninagawa, excerpt from noir.)

Staircase: Untitled (2015, ink-jet on colton film)
A particularly distinctive feature of the Hara Museum is its stairwell window through which beautiful sunlight enters. This window is covered with photographic images printed on transparent film in monochrome. The lack of color averts a stained glass effect and the insinuation of religious grandeur, creating instead the feeling of a private space for memories. In the past, when the Hara Museum was the residence of the Hara family, the staircase was a private space that led to bedrooms on the second floor.

Gallery IV: PLANT A TREE (2011, C-print)
According to the artist, in the spring of 2010, she began shooting cherry blossoms along the Meguro River in Tokyo in an almost obsessive fashion. They are images that embody one of the basic points of photography – to capture passing moments of glory. Ninagawa recently commented as follows:

“This is a book of photographs taken only of cherry blossoms along the Meguro River. I took them all one spring day within a span of about three hours. I see them as photographs that could only have been taken on that particular day, of things that could only have been recorded at that moment.”

Gallery III and Gallery V: Self-image (2013 -, C-print)
Ninagawa’s early works, which included many self portraits, were sometimes labeled “Girl Photos,” in the sense that they were focused on things within close proximity (“5 meters or less”). To separate her self-portraits from this characterization, Ninagawa has kept them away from public view over the years, even as she continued taking them. These photographs, many of which are monochrome without her trademark “Ninagawa Color,” capture a truly raw and unguarded Mika Ninagawa.

“I close the pages of a galley proof for Mika Ninagawa’s Self-image. Swaying in the wind in one corner of the yard are the bars and swing-set with which Mika used to play when she was little. I try to push my child’s internal world and bodily flesh gently into the distant background.”

(Yukio Ninagawa, excerpt from The Sound of Acorns Falling in the Wind in Self-image.)

Featured artist

Mika Ninagawa

Organized by

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Sponsored by

Deutsche Bank Group, LUMINE Co., Ltd., GATEAU FESTA HARADA

Cooperation provided by

Tomio Koyama Gallery, Lucky Star Co., Ltd.

Additional cooperation provided by

Perrier-Jouët, FUJIFILM Imaging Systems Co.,Ltd., TOKYO Lithmatic Corporation, Oji F-Tex Co., Ltd., TOSHO Printing Co., Ltd., Keiichiro Shibuya, evala, ZUMI

Equipment support provided by