PRIVATE VIEW: RECOLLECTIONS OF TIME SPENT WITH ISHIUCHI MIYAKO 

 

Welcome to the third edition of our online viewing room! 
This week I want to give you an insight into my long-standing relationship with the Japanese photographer, Ishiuchi Miyako.
The excitement of working with such an extraordinary artist such as Ishiuchi has been a truly fascinating experience and a pleasure, and with so many brilliant images to choose from I have never left her studio without stars in my eyes.
I do hope that you enjoy our third Viewing Room where we see Ishiuchi at work and look back on some of her most memorable and poignant exhibitions.

Michael Hoppen

  • Ishiuchi Miyako began her photographic career shooting familiar streets and buildings in her hometown, Yokosuka, which had been transformed during...

    Ishiuchi Miyako began her photographic career shooting familiar streets and buildings in her hometown, Yokosuka, which had been transformed during the post-war period into one of the largest American naval bases in the Pacific. For over ten years, Ishiuchi documented this alien presence, capturing traces of the Occupation that lingered decades after the war had ended, and charging her work with a subjectivity which blended personal and political awareness.

     

    As a student, Ishiuchi was immersed in the radical political climate of Tokyo at the end of the 1960s. Contemporary identity politics and debates surrounding self-expression encouraged Ishiuchi to reflect upon her fraught relationship with Yokosuka, and in 1976 she returned to the town she has characterized as a place of fear, grief, resentment, and disorientation. Although Ishiuchi is only physically represented in these early series once, as a shadow, she has commented that these photo books, concerned with Yokosuka and its history, are “totally personal […] My very own skin, born in the darkroom.”

     

    Ishiuchi’s work has continued to record material traces of the passage of time, turning her lens away from locations towards the bodies and personal belongings of people. Her series Mother’s (2002), in which she documented her mother’s possessions as a means of coming to terms with her death, was selected to represent Japan at the 2005 Venice Biennale. This led the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to invite her to capture everyday objects which had belonged to victims of the atomic bomb. The Museo Frida Kahlo commissioned Ishiuchi to photograph Kahlo’s possessions, held in the museum archive (Frida, 2013).

  • ISHIUCHI MIYAKO

  • Michael Hoppen:"I sometimes need to remind myself that new and interesting things can be illuminated quite by chance, and when one is least expecting it. Sometimes an image presents itself - either pointed out, discovered at random whilst browsing a bookshop, or in casual conversation with friends - and one’s interest is sufficiently piqued to delve deeper and find out more".

  • 'This is particularly true of my introduction to Ishiuchi Miyako, which I remember vividly. It began in 2004, after a...

    "This is particularly true of my introduction to Ishiuchi Miyako, which I remember vividly. It began in 2004, after a brief conversation with a book dealer about a grainy image of a child walking down a street (image right: "Yokosuka Story #98, 1976-1977" © Miyako Ishiuchi) Shortly after, I received a call from Manfred Heiting, a legendary Dutch collector of both photography and photobooks, and also a friend who has always offered me sage advice; over the years he has pointed me towards all kinds of wonderful pictures, artists and books. Out of the blue, Manfred suggested that I travelled to Prague to meet the Japanese artist Ishiuchi Miyako, and, it was then that I realised I had been discussing her work only the day before with the book dealer - our relationship was born!

  • Manfred had decided to publish a small, beautifully designed monograph about Ishiuchi in collaboration with the Dutch photographer Machiel Botman, and he was aware of my increasing fascination with Japanese photography and books. I had heard about Ishiuchi, but I had not seen much of her work in person. Her series ‘Mothers’ had been chosen to represent Japan at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and whilst I had not been able to visit this exhibition, I was eager to find out what I was missing.

     

    I flew to Prague to attend the opening of her show at Langhans, a well-known photography gallery in the heart of the city. I remember being particularly impressed by the extraordinary simultaneous translator, who fielded questions from the Czechoslovakian audience translating into Japanese and also English! 

  • Furthermore, I was thoroughly smitten with Ishiuchi Miyako. She wore a beautiful full-length kimono, accessorised with dark leather fingerless gloves...

    Furthermore, I was thoroughly smitten with Ishiuchi Miyako. She wore a beautiful full-length kimono, accessorised with dark leather fingerless gloves and large dark-glasses. The effect was wonderfully rock and roll, subverting the traditional connotations of her robes. 

     

     

  • She would dress again like this at her Getty Museum opening several years later.

  • "Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows, GETTY CENTER" >> SCROLL TO SEE MORE!

    October 6, 2015–February 21, 2016
  • Ishiuchi’s exhibition was spectacular in every way, transforming the space with her provocative choice of subject matter, masterly printing technique, and the iconic, bold hang for which she is rightly famous. The show changed my view of Japanese photography forever, and we have continued to work together ever since. We have held five shows of her work in London  over the past 15 years and I love having her photography on the walls of the gallery. 

     

  • ISHIUCHI IN JAPAN

  • I have been fortunate to visit Ishiuchi at her home in Japan many times, and she has managed to find new and fascinating pictures for me to look through on each visit; I have met few photographers who have made so many extraordinary images. 

  • Ishiuchi believes in making all her own black and white prints, turning the upstairs bedroom into a darkroom from May...

    Ishiuchi believes in making all her own black and white prints, turning the upstairs bedroom into a darkroom from May to July when the ambient temperature is perfect for her chemistry. Some of her prints are very large and it is amazing to see her printing as if dying textiles, pushing the chemicals across the surface of the paper, as if to ‘scrub in’ the grain which has become a signature of her work. Her printing style is highly individualised, and entails pushing the film, first by underexposing it and later through overdeveloping; the resultant grain is exquisite, and builds images in a very unusual way. 

  • The Yokohama Museum paid homage to this technique in the title of her major 2017 retrospective, Grain and Image (2017). I very much enjoyed visiting this exhibition, which Ishiuchi took me around in person and explained many of the individual images to us and why she made them. The curator she worked with, presented a superb selection of works chosen from across Ishiuchi’s career, many of which I had never seen before.

  • Lunch has also became an integral part of my visits to see Ishiuchi. Food is such an important part of...

    Lunch has also became an integral part of my visits to see Ishiuchi. Food is such an important part of life in Japan, and the Japanese love to share their enthusiasm for trying new foods with friends and acquaintances . Each time I visit, Ishiuchi prepares what I can only describe as a mini-feast, all totally delicious, beautifully presented and better than any omakase you will find in a restaurant which is saying something as food in Japan is hard to beat! When the books and prints which cover the table during our curatorial meetings are all cleared away, and a succession of simple but unusual dishes eminate from Ishiuchi’s kitchen - each one extraordinary. New flavours and combinations are always on offer. I remember at Ishiuchi’s home the very first time I tasted  Sansho a Japanese pepper, which has a unusual citrusy flavor and if used in too much quantity, also has a strange numbing effect on ones lips!

  • Michael Hoppen Gallery Exhibitions >> scroll to see more!

  • FEATURED VINTAGE WORKS

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    This photograph was taken in Yokosuka, a small port to the south of Tokyo, on the site of a large American naval base. During these years of military occupation Yokosuka was infiltrated by American culture, and in turn the visual landscape reflects the struggle between local and foreign, past and present and the uncertainty of Japan’s future identity.

     

    Here, we see a close up of the back of an American (possibly a service-man?) wearing a denim jacket embroidered with a skull and crossbones and the words ‘USS Rathburne’ and ‘You’ll Never Go Again!!’ as he is about to cross the road. The ambiguity of the scene is highlighted in Ishiuchi’s choice of angles and cropping. It is known that she photographed from a moving car at times, often taking pictures whilst her subjects were not looking. In Yokosuka Story Ishiuchi often exposed the photographic paper for long periods of time, sometimes up to thirty minutes, turning skies that would usually appear white into a dark and grainy grey. This long exposure time can also be seen as related to her desire to transfer onto each image the entire memory of the experience of shooting the picture.

     

    This print is from the series Yokosuka Story, which was first exhibited in 1977 and which was to be the first of a trilogy of photographic series that each explore different aspects of the town's public and private spaces, united by the artist's distinctive photographic approach. It is thought that this is the first print that Ishiuchi made from the negative - there are other examples in the J Paul Getty Museum and the Yokohama Museum of Art. This print is in perfect condition and so it is a rare example of an excellent vintage print from one of Ishiuchi's most significant early series.

     

    Image: Yokosuka Story #73, Ōdaki-chō, 1977

    Print info

     

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  • Miyako Ishiuchi, Bay Side Courts, Wall No.3. 1988-1989

    Miyako Ishiuchi

    Bay Side Courts, Wall No.3. 1988-1989

    "There was a military centre in Yokohama called Bayside Court. The area housed residences, schools, a hospital, church, supermarket and theatre, and was a place where life operated as it would

    in America [...] My mother was once hired as the driver of a jeep by the U.S. military base, transporting soldiers to and fro between Yokosuka and Yokohama, so there is an almost uncanny coherence here that feels quite odd.

     

    The photos I took at Bayside Court (and the EM Club) have an historical afterimage fixed upon them. And today, these places exist only inside those photographs. No matter what, the photos cannot
    escape their fate as a commemorative document of the past. Knowing well this immutable fact, in order to re-evaluate the role of the photograph with its dual nature - is it lie or truth, beauty or ugliness - the buildings are resurrected here not so much to
    demonstrate that they indeed stood, once upon a time, in Yokosuka and Yokohama, but rather that I might show the unending dream inside this series. So I do not forget this phantom image that I grasped back then in my late teens". - Ishiuchi Miyako, afterword to 'Clubs and Courts.'

     

    Image: Bay Side Courts, Wall No.3. 1988-1989

    Print info 

     

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  • boys in group

    Miyako Ishiuchi
    Yokosuka Again, 1981
    Signed, titled and dated by the artist on the print verso.
    Vintage silver gelatin print, printed by the artist.
    45.5 x 55.8 cm

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  • FEATURED WORKS - VINTAGE

  • FEATURED WORKS - MOTHER'S

  • Featured works - Frida

  • "Frida" curator Circe Henestrosa in conversation with Ishiuchi Miyako at Michael Hoppen Gallery

    June, 2015

  • ... she also collects crocodiles like me!

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