Nobuyoshi Araki: Sensuality, Nostalgia, and Nature in the Flesh

May 6, 2013 3:11PM

"What makes (photography) obscene is its terrible cruelty. Happiness may be fleeting but it is the reason we go on living. Photography is the joy that precedes pain, the moment of life just before death." - Nobuyoshi Araki

Multiplicity is key when viewing the work of the great Japanese protagonist, Nobuyoshi Araki - strewn with cultural references and littered with props which prick at our sense of humor immediately but also our sense of soul for so much longer, leaving a deep impression and a wish to see more of his theatrical subjects interact alongside each other. Leaving aside a certain hedonism one cannot ignore the poetic thread that runs between day and night, metropolis and intimate stage, love and death, beauty and ruin, all obsessions which form the foundations of Araki’s intense and complex landscape.

Continuing the tradition of early Japanese culture, the erotic content of Araki’s photographs has been likened to notable examples of early Japanese painting; one such reference being the emakimono paintings from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) which focus on erotic themes combined with social satire. Essentially through the cycles he presents and the instinctive talent he has to juxtapose and edit his cathartic visual journey by moving the viewer towards an ‘awareness’ of living - and the chance for us to find ourselves faced with a new experience through his serialization, something which astounds us as though we are seeing for the first time. As if that wasn’t in itself an achievement of epic proportions - he could also be considered one of the most efficacious contemporary interpreters of sensuality alive.

VIDEO: "It's very hard sometimes to look at a piece by Araki just as a separate entity, because his work is a whole story." - Lou Proud, Head of Photographs in London, discusses this rare, single-owner collection of seventy-seven Araki works to be offered in our upcoming Photographs sale, 8 May 2013, London.