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Blog: Inspiration Between the Lines

Mikiko Hara: Kyrie at Miyako Yoshinaga

The photographs of Mikiko Hara on view in her second solo show at Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery offer an ephemeral, almost dream-like vision of daily life in Kawasaki, a metropolitan area in Greater Tokyo. The title of the exhibition, Kyrie, references a mystic sound removed from its origins in Christianity. And indeed, an unspecifiable, otherworldly aura seems to hover around each photograph. The 14” x 14” images, matted and framed, are expertly sequenced within a carefully appointed spatial design that incorporates ample breathing room around single images, pairs of images and larger groupings. A serene color palette is shared across all 19 works, reflecting Hara’s meticulous attention to color through analog processes. Although each is unique, the photographs are harmonized through a translucent coolness that perhaps echoes the vibratory nature of their sonic twin, the sound Kyrie.

Untitled from the Kyrie series, 2015, 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 cm.).  © Mikiko Hara Courtesy MIYAKO YOSHINAGA, New York.

After waves of recognition in the 1990s in Japan, Hara’s work was honored in 2017 with the Kimura Ihei Photography Award. Her process involves 7 to 8 years of film photography using a 1930s Ikonta camera. While shooting, Hara pursues impulse, the instantaneous, and the intuitive in lieu of premeditated image-making; a direct counterpoint to contemporary photography’s hyper-focus on conceptual, constructed or idea-based work. To further buttress her point of view, Hara shoots from the hip, literally—one scene, one shot—to avoid any cerebral construction of compositions. After gathering volumes of contact sheets, the work is edited and prepared for presentation. To that end, Hara’s most recent body of work is on view this fall at Miyako Yoshinaga in New York, in a solo show at Yokohama Civic Art Gallery in Japan, and at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam. 

Untitled from the Kyrie series, 2015, 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 cm.).  © Mikiko Hara Courtesy MIYAKO YOSHINAGA, New York.

In many ways, the work allows viewers to access the sublime. Hara seems to cull a sense of quiet from within the slow churn of existence fueled by banal activity. A juxtaposition between the contemporary lifestyles and the slow, deliberate process of image-making that Hara prioritizes creates a palpable tension within the images, even if one does not know how the photographs are made.

Untitled from the Kyrie series, 2015, 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 cm.).  © Mikiko Hara Courtesy MIYAKO YOSHINAGA, New York.

A soft light dapples the heads of travelers on a train as they scan their cell phones. Gentle sunrays pass through an apartment window, partially obscured, onto the back of a curled-up teenager. A schoolgirl cycling in her uniform is lost in thought as she stands, caught mid-pedal atop the shadow of a stoplight pole. Reflections, soft blurs, motion, and bodies in various moments of relaxed everydayness or cocooned comfort, in full, partial or faceless views, populate most of Hara’s images. A handful of photographs of flowers or urban landscapes, interspersed among them, work together with Hara’s layering of light and color to create a rich sense of depth that at the same time feels weightless. 

Untitled from the Kyrie series, 2015, 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 cm.).  © Mikiko Hara Courtesy MIYAKO YOSHINAGA, New York.

A complex relationship to time within Hara’s practice offers a compelling respite from a digitized, visually saturated world, one that is at once meditative, soothing and inspiring.

Mikiko Hara: Kyrie is on view at Miyako Yoshinaga through October 26, 2019.

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