Interview #18: Akishige Kano (2021)
Having studied and practiced traditional dyeing and weaving in Kyoto, Akishige Kano applies his knowledge of Japanese aesthetics to photography. He aims to capture the unexpected collaborations of humans, nature and time to communicate emotions that cannot be expressed in language. His photographs reveal the hidden beauty of the inconspicuous, the overlooked, and the abandoned, and their abstract qualities allow the viewer a freedom of interpretation, enlivening us with visions and hallucinations.
Here’s our interview with him.
PR／Please tell us about yourself and your background.
AK／Having a strong interest in Japanese aesthetics, I practiced traditional plant dyeing and hand weaving at an atelier in Kyoto for two years. Then, in order to pursue my interest further, I entered Kyoto University of the Arts, where I studied dyeing and weaving for another two years. Wanting to broaden my means of expression, I transferred to the Photography course and studied for three years before graduation. The technique of dyeing with natural materials is very restrictive, and you cannot always achieve the colour you have imagined, which greatly limits the freedom of expression. If you have something specific in mind that you want to express, photography is much more flexible and immediate.
PR／How do Japanese aesthetics influence your work?
AK／Kimonos, unique to Japan, woven with yarns stained with vegetable dyes, are not flashy, but show a very deep and complex beauty. ‘Boro’, which is now attracting worldwide attention for its artistic value and is traded at a very high price, is a Japanese fabric with a very complex texture and coloration, which is the result of decaying and fading over time. In ancient times, textiles were very expensive, so even if they were ripped or torn, the usable parts were cut out and sewn together like a patchwork to make a new kimono. This presents an indescribable beauty that strongly appeals to the deepest part of our hearts. This never-ending passion for beauty is the source of my art.
PR／You have written that you try to capture the “unexpected collaborations of human, nature and time”. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
AK／For me, art itself is a means of communication, which does not force us to see things in a certain way, nor does it demand that we translate it into language to understand it. If people who see my work can feel something deep inside that cannot be put into words, that is the kind of communication I am aiming for. I believe that we humans should place more importance on things that cannot be put into words. For example, there is only one word, “blue” (along with qualifiers, such as “cerulean”) to describe the infinite variations of blue that we can perceive; or when we say “sad”, there are actually an infinite number of forms of sadness behind the word. Through art we can express what words cannot.
PR／Who are your main influences and inspirations?
AK／Decades ago, I was deeply moved when I saw a kimono in a museum, which happened to be the work of a famous Japanese dyer and weaver, Shimura Fukumi. As I looked at her various works, I experienced a hallucination of the dark sea at night, a wild autumn field, and countless candles floating in a dark cathedral, as if I were there in another world. These kimonos were not woven to resemble a specific landscape, but just a collection of threads with endless and complex tones. This experience was the beginning of my pursuit of such beauty, first in dyeing and weaving, and then in photography.
PR／What is your attraction to abstract photography?
AK／When we take a photograph of something, for example a can of Coke, and show it to someone, the person who sees it will usually see nothing but a can of Coke. In a way, that may be taking away the freedom of the mind of that person to appreciate the work. However, an abstract work of art does not force the viewer to decide what it looks like. The same work can look like a profile of a person, a landscape, an animal, or it can evoke a certain emotion, like music, although it cannot be named. In other words, I think that abstract works give freedom to the viewer’s mind. Photography was originally a way to communicate something concrete more accurately, but I intend to allow for a wider range of interpretation and to directly convey emotions that cannot be put into words.
PR／What is your process of finding new photographic material?
AK／I believe that creativity is one of the most important instincts of human beings. The act of shooting with a camera is a way of expressing this deep desire. I use a Sigma full frame digital camera. I set the format to square when I take a picture, and I shoot in raw files, which I do not crop. Later, when I am developing my images, I adjust the contrast and saturation to reproduce the “memory colours”, which are more vivid than real colours, and closer to what I want to express.
PR／I really enjoy the experimentation in your @akikano_art account. How would you like to develop your photography in the future?
AK／@akikano_art is an experiment for me. I don’t use any manipulation software to process my photos, so you basically see them as I took them. However, when I want to be more creative, I think it is necessary to express myself more actively in my work. In @akikano_art I try to find new ways to express myself by mixing fragments of my photographs with acrylic paints and other materials. Nevertheless, the materials I usually photograph often have a complexity of shape and colour far beyond what humans can draw. Therefore, I would like to continue to produce @akikano. And until my passion demands something new, I will continue to explore current methods.
Having studied and practiced traditional dyeing and weaving in Kyoto, Akishige Kano applies his knowledge of Japanese aesthetics to photography.
He aims to capture the unexpected collaborations of humans, nature and time to communicate emotions that cannot be expressed in language.
His photographs reveal the hidden beauty of the inconspicuous, the overlooked, and the abandoned, and their abstract qualities allow the viewer a freedom of interpretation, enlivening us with visions and hallucinations.
Interview by Paul Rowland.