Naoki Ishikawa "Polar"
This event has ended.
Naoki Ishikawa is an artist who creates pictures of "somewhere other than here," featuring the places he encounters in his travels. Better known as the young adventurer who accomplished great feats such as becoming the youngest person to climb the highest mountains of the world's seven continents, Ishikawa is now thirty years old, and since his late teens he has been traveling to the world's frontiers. Ishikawa's curiosity is the driving force that has pushed his body and mind to their limits, enabling him to look Nature in the face and reach unknown horizons, and it is also this curiosity that spurs his interest in cultural anthropology. Ishikawa very naturally came to use a camera in order to record his adventures, and as he encountered unknown scenes, his eye evolved to the point where it no longer produced photographs that merely recorded his achievements but instead became art, expressions of scenes passed through his own special filter.
Naoki Ishikawa's chance to share these photographs with the world came with his photo collection The Void, which features New Zealand's virgin forests and was published by Knee High Media Japan in 2005. Capturing the air of the almost impenetrable forest and magnificent landscape, Ishikawa's camera imparts a sense of universality and tension, successfully resulting in a moving work of contemporary art. This autumn, Ishikawa announced another compilation with his photo collection New Dimension (pub. Akaakasha) featuring his travels to view prehistoric wall paintings.
As the name implies, "Polar" is an exhibition of photos from the Arctic Circle to which Ishikawa has traveled many times since his first visit during the Pole to Pole expedition in 2000. The general image conjured up by the term 'the Arctic Circle' is perhaps one of giant icebergs and unexplored areas of permafrost. However, it actually refers to the expansive region above 66.6 degrees latitude north that includes the northernmost part of the North American continent, the north of the Scandinavian Peninsula and Siberia, as well as parts of Greenland. This area is inhabited and possesses its own industries and culture. It is the home of unapproachable mountain ranges of ice, lives eked out in harbors at the end of the earth, and people who share their homes with the dogs who pull their sleds. Ishikawa has photographed many scenes from around this region that still has many mysteries capturing the awe, the overwhelming powerlessness of humanity, and the solitude of destiny that one feels when confronted with Nature. Most of us will probably never manage to venture to these frontiers, but through his photographs, Naoki Ishikawa gives us the opportunity to glimpse their reality.
From 2007-11-16 To 2007-12-22
There can be no doubt that Ishikawa Naoki deserves great respect as an adventurer, having travelled to many remote parts of the world, conquered treacherous mountain peaks, ventured deep into forests which most people have never seen.
There can be no doubt he is a competent photographer, his interest in cultural anthropology evident in his work, and shared with the audiences who view it.
However, there is a valid question to be asked as to where personal documentation of a subject and art might intersect. Unfortunately there is a great deal of the former and a great absence of the latter in this exhibition.
Other Japanese photographers, Hatakeyama Naoya being a prime example (such as in http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/event/2006/E016 and
http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/event/2006/AE50.en ), also present series of images documenting a particular subject but their images also capture something essential beyond the surface of their subjects. This may be through a revelation of true intimacy with their subject, a particular context made evident, a mood or atmosphere, a display of its grandeur/intricacy/emptiness/power/tragedy/sublime nature.
However Ishikawa fails to communicate any such sensibility, and therefore, although the work is interesting from a superficial documentary perspective (he doesn't appear to have captured anything beyond a general overview of his subject), there is no sense of "art" here.
A number of shots of the same ice wall from slightly different angles graces one wall of the gallery. A few shots of a dog sled team being hitched and receding into the snow span another. A couple of open empty snowy landscape scenes. And so on. Other than a single majestic image of a towering ice cliff (which is used to promote the show), this exhibition consists primarily of snapshots which offer no real insight to a viewer other than pictorial confirmation.
SCAI's promotional material declares that we "...will probably never manage to venture to these frontiers, but through his photographs, Naoki Ishikawa gives us the opportunity to glimpse their reality". No doubt these are well-executed shots which do just that. But, despite SCAI's outrageous price-tags and attempts to convince us otherwise, they do little more.