Digital and Analog Collide in Photography by Akihiko Miyoshi

Before Akihiko Miyoshi became a photographer, he was a computer engineer, studying for his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University. Though he dropped out of the doctoral program to pursue art, the language of machines and data never left his system. 

  • Installation view of “Akihiko Miyoshi: CMYKRGB” at Circuit Gallery, Toronto. Courtesy Circuit Gallery and the artist.

Miyoshi now creates at the intersection of art and technology, crafting abstract photographs that appear to be digitally manipulated but are actually constructed with physical materials. At Circuit Gallery, the artist unveils his latest visual experiments in “CMYKRGB,” an ongoing exploration of the convergence of digital and analog realms.

“These works specifically consider the aesthetics and conditions of production representative/symptomatic of our time where pigments and pixels push and pull at each other.” Miyoshi explains in an artist statement. “They strive to evoke what is immediately unrepresentable today, only felt in its effects.” Photography, he adds, is an interesting medium that can transform the ephemeral and intangible nature of information into something concrete. 

Knowledge of Miyoshi’s process is integral to understanding the structure of his works. His earlier series of images, titled “Abstract,” are meticulously built, staged, and shot with a large format camera. Miyoshi uses paint and masking tape—in red, green, and blue, the three primary colors that form a pixel—and often places it directly onto the camera lens. With mirrors and light, he morphs and multiplies geometric patterns to create an illusion of depth, often incorporating his own reflection from behind the camera into the works. A closer look at the final archival prints reveals traces of the materiality of his constructions in specks of dust and scratches.

In his later series, “Process Structure,” in addition to employing analog materials, Miyoshi delves into the algorithms of photo-editing software. After creating an image using paint and paper, he offsets the colors within Photoshop or manipulates the works with the help of a “content aware algorithm” that mines for forms depending on color or pixels.  

  • Installation view of “Akihiko Miyoshi: CMYKRGB” at Circuit Gallery, Toronto. Courtesy Circuit Gallery and the artist.

In her essay about the “CMYKRGB” exhibition, writer Emily Doucet examines Miyoshi’s alternative statement—an intricate diagram of words that could be the map of a leaf’s veins. “We can read multiple sentences or narratives across Miyoshi’s diagram, a network that obscures as much as it communicates,” she observes. His meanderings may all meet at a question mark, but one trajectory is clear: in a world of screens and browsers, the ways humans absorb visuals online are evolving, as is the nature of photography. 

—Becky Chung

Akihiko Miyoshi: CMYKRGB” is on view at Circuit Gallery, Toronto, Apr. 8–May 2, 2015.

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