Naruki Oshima — haptic green
Past: November 7 → December 21, 2013
With a well-established international reputation, Japanese photographer Naruki Oshima (born in 1963, Osaka, Japan) is especially known for his work Reflections, fascinating images of contemporary glass façades that, thanks to the quality of straightforward four by five film photography with subtle digital reworking, unsettle the perception of our environment. Despite the pictures’ clearly urban setting, nature is nonetheless present, filtering in through the transparent surfaces and imposing its presence on building sites.
Nature is even more present in the haptic green series currently exhibited at NextLevel gallery. In this series, entirely focused on the natural landscape, Naruki Oshima applies a complex technical process that allows him to deconstruct an image into more than two hundred elements, from which he then reconstructs a new image. The process he uses is like a scan: with the camera fixed at a precise point, the artist methodically shoots a series of images starting from the bottom left corner of the frame, up to the top right-hand side. In reassembling the shots, Oshima works meticulously to correct distortions created by the fixed camera angle and to erase overlaps, in order to give the impression of a single image, a single shot. It is nonetheless a long way from the traditional process of collage whereby each element retains its own identity in a deliberate overlapping process.
Naruki Oshima redistributes the image’s composing elements, combining close ups with long distance frames, mixing focused with blurred. The result poses a challenge to both Western perspectivist culture and to the flat tones typical of Japanese art. For Naruki Oshima’s art follows a path somewhere in between, with rich layered surfaces and spaces of incredible depth, but in solid, flat tones. Background is brought to the surface; frontiers between different planes are abolished. By subtly twisting our spatial notions and habits, the artist creates a strange new world. He also invokes temporality by trying to capture the fleeting impression left by a place seen only briefly, like a landscape passing before the windows of a train or a car. This sense of the ephemeral, recurrent in Japanese culture, allows us to overcome our perceptive barriers and discover, in the interstices, new possibilities, a new time-space approach to the world.
Naruki Oshima’s photography requires us to focus, to pay attention: to enter into the image, the viewer must be receptive to its hypnotic calm and to the subtle signs that provide the keys. But he or she can also gently glide over the image, without trying to decode its mysterious aura. This is where Oshima reinvents the notion of haptic: usually defined as the process of recognizing objects through touch, he uses it to refer to a visual, retinal tactility.
For we want to reach out and touch these apparently living trees, trapped beneath the Plexiglas. The strength of the images lies in their capacity to create, through sophisticated artistic enquiry, a new perspective on the world that the artist triggers by deliberately destabilizing our preformatted gaze. The process also scrambles our cognitive capacity to understand an image, usually by approaching or retreating from it in order to better understand.
When Naruki Oshima photographs a subject, it becomes a conceptual form, a block of colour, an interplay of light and shade. It nonetheless retains a link to reality that is both tenuous and dense. One cannot apply a sociocultural framework to read his images, yet neither are they pure abstraction. It is in this subtle tension between opposites that a possible and fascinating unknown can emerge.
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