A Japanese artist of the post-war generation, Toshio Shibata has been working over many years around the notion of landscape. He is particularly known for his photographs of monumental infrastructures, a body of work already presented in September 2013, at the Polka Galerie on the occasion of the “Abstraction of Space” exhibit.
The production of the series “Night Photos” holds a special place within the artist’s work. The photographs, shot only at night during the 80s and presented today to the public, are in black and white when his current production is in colour. The artist is looking back at his work by sifting through his own archives, selecting black and white images to emphasise the approach and the nocturnal aspect which gives an eeriness to this ensemble, and gives this series a very personal imprint without the author making an appearance. It is the immersion into one’s inner space that leads the photographer to the origin of his oeuvre, to “his own” primitive night.
“towards the end of the 70s, Toshio Shibata explains, the turmoil that had affected post-war Japan settled-down. So I came back home after four years of studying in Flanders, in a Europe where time was passing very slowly. With Westernization and the chaos in which the leftovers of the ancient Showa (pre-war time) was mingling with the modern (from the 50s to 1989), Tokyo seemed to be in such dissaray that I could not capture any visual reality. I, who had fought to create in my country my own and unique oeuvre, began a quest for the night’ s ligths. This was my way of escaping the turmoil of the day.”
Shibata then identified his subject : motorways. Since this space is of a universal nature it does matter wether it is in Europe, America or Japan. An interesting caracteristic for whoever wants to locate these man-made landscapes in a ageless and borderless modernity. If the road has been a priviledged topic for photography in the 20th century, it is because a civilisation of mobility was born, leading to a whole world : petrol-stations, architectures, motorway services, parkings, highway interchange, etc.
He composes yet without goal nor destination. In a slow horizontal panoramic, gliding behind a car window, he goes from buildings – interior, exterior at night – to nature or objects – cars, standing trucks… He goes from objects to signs. In this country was called “L’Empire des Signes” (The empire of signs), ideograms, pictograms of toilets and restaurant signs, creep in. His images are very empty, because the places are or maybe because they were shot from a distance with a large format camera, letting the fundamental void of night-time creeping into the elements. This detailed attention to the void enriches with a philosophical dimension the photographer’s work.
Toshio Shibata Night Photographs
12 septembre – 31 octobre 2015