Bombas Gens Centre d’Art
Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
MEM (Multiply Encoded Messages, Tokyo, Japan)
ARTIST: Shigeru Ōnishi
CURATOR: Vicent Todolí
In Search of Meta-Infinite presents the extraordinary photographic and pictorial work of the artist Shigeru Ōnishi (Takahashi, 1928-1994), whose figure was forgotten due to the singularity of his artistic language and his difficult identification with specific movements within the history of Japanese avant-garde photography and painting.
Ōnishi graduated in mathematics from Hokkaido University in 1953 and continued his research at its Laboratory of Mathematics. Simultaneously, he started to apply mathematic theories to the image-making process. Although he abandoned photography around 1957 to concentrate on abstract painting, this short-lived period produced a unique oeuvre in which Ōnishi distanced himself from other schools and ideas in Japanese photography of that time.
In his photographs, Shigeru Ōnishi endeavoured to transcend the boundaries of time and space: rather than a snapshot of one moment, his photographs present multiple moments brought together in a single image. He also subverted the traditional rules of developing in the dark room, for example, by using brushes and sponges to ‘paint’ the emulsion on the photographic paper in order to deliberately introduce irregularities during the development of the image. He used acids to create intentional discolouration, and warm chemical baths (up to 80 degrees Celsius) to manipulate the development process of his prints. The result is a collection of dreamy montages in which indeterminate nudes, cityscapes, trees, portraits and interiors seem to merge.
Despite the fleeting recognition of his photography, in the late 1950s he abandoned photographic practice altogether to concentrate on abstract ink painting, through which he came to have a certain resonance within the framework of European Informalism thanks to his relationship with the French art critic Michel Tapié (Senouillac, 1909-1987).
Following his death in 1994, Ōnishi’s work was consigned to museum depots, where it was soon forgotten. Bombas Gens Centre d’Art presents the artist’s first major exhibition in Europe showing both his photographic and pictorial work, including a series of photographs from the Per Amor a l’Art Collection, and a wide selection of large-scale abstract paintings shown for the first-time outside Japan.
Image: Shigeru Ōnishi. Untitled, ca. 1950. Per Amor a l’Art Collection © The Estate of Shigeru Onishi / Courtesy of MEM, Tokyo