January 16th, 2008
After getting aware of the viewpoint of an “empty self,” I started in 1999 a series of works using paper, titled “Linear-Actions Projects by Drawing and Cutting.” It looks like annual rings of a tree or topographical map or waive, but it isn’t. It is absolutely the traces of actions of a person, which is me.
So to speak, I have been mapping the mysterious land between physical and emotional geography. I want to attain something sublime. The entrance of the way is detail. The detail is the key point of nature, and we are part of nature. Even though the actions are simple, I do not try to draw / cut mechanical or perfect lines in my work, for subtle natural distortions convey the nuances of human emotions, habits, or biorhythm. For this reason, I take care to make all works by hand.
When I am drawing or cutting lines, I am interested in observing the power of the changing growing shape. This dynamic shape becomes an entity in itself, “Another geography.” In a sense, the empty space is myself, and the materials represent the present world. Cutting book work is like collaboration for me. And it is important to choose the materials carefully because printed matter conveys a message automatically. The relationship between the linear actions and the materials is like the relationship between human beings and their restricted environment, a connection that is interested in me, too.
January 15th, 2008
“In The Solitude of Ravens Masahisa Fukase’s work can be deemed to have reached its supreme height; it can also be said to have fallen to its greatest depth”. So begins Akira Hasegawa’s afterword to Fukase’s The Solitude of Ravens, which was originally titled Karasu (Ravens) when it was published in Japan. There can be few photobooks sadder, lonelier, or more tragic than this sequence. Fukase had been famous for the joyous photographs he took of his wife but the marriage dissolved in 1976 and the emotions depicted in Fukase’s portfolio began to reverse direction.
Despondent Fukase became infatuated with the raven of his native Hokkaido, ten years worth of photographs of these birds make up The Solitude of Ravens. Published in Japan in 1986, it was republished in the United States in 1991. Soon after, Fukase fell down a staircase after returning drunk from a night out. He has been in a coma for the last 14 years. The photobook he left behind is a triumph of photographic expressionism, a record of a man who turned inward, leaving behind pure images of personal grief.
The raven is a creature heavy with imbued meaning. Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven, whose “eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming”, was a conflict of darkness and light. There is a dangerous loneliness to the singular bird and a great gloom to the flock that weighs down a sky. Perched together on a spindly tree, they sit in apparent melancholy. The raven lends itself to a particularly Japanese aesthetic. Elegant and strong in silhouette, it could be said to resemble a calligraphic marking. One image in the book is of a large aeroplane blocking out most of the viewfinder, its outline resembling the raven.
When Araki Nobuyoshi’s wife Yoko died of cancer in 1990, the great photographer descended into his own gloom. His visual vocabulary became one of vast skies, and the memory of Yoko was metaphorically preserved as photos of their pet cat. The departure of Fukase’s wife, also named Yoko, left no room for fond rememberance. It was on pilgrimage to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido that he adopted the raven as the symbol of the pain which never left him.
The Solitude of Ravens was Fukase’s last work before he plunged into coma. This is a monumental and pivotal work in the history of photobooks underscored by the terrible tragedy of the photographer who created it.
January 13th, 2008
A former editor for the German fashion magazine Petra, Jil Sander opened her first boutique in Hamburg in 1968, selling her own pieces alongside those of celebrity designers like Sonia Rykiel. Though her “purity” aesthetic—austere suits and coats, embellishment-free cashmere knits, and monochrome silk dresses in whites, browns, and blacks—helped establish her cult following, Sander’s last collections as the label’s designer departed from the spartan formula with strokes of color (sherbet-hued dresses, white jackets painted with blue streaks) and flair (fringed separates, sequined numbers). New creative director Raf Simons has furthered this proposition with appliquéd shorts; electric red, orange, and blue outerwear; and blousy, one-button coats.
And Raf Simons, the current chief designer for Jil Sander, are back with the usual luxe-minimalism, impeccably tailored suits, and knits in an array of experimental cuts and techno fabrics again.