What do Nobuyoshi Araki and Bisazza tiles have in common? You wouldn’t think much, but the latest exhibition of Araki’s evocative – and occasionally controversial – works at the mosaic company’s impressive foundation in Vicenza shows them in a whole new light.
It all started in 2009, when Piero Bisazza invited the Japanese photographer to shoot a mosaic campaign. ‘I’ve always admired Araki's photographic style, in particular his use of colour,’ he explains. ‘In our advertising campaign, Araki was able to harmoniously match the brilliance of the golden mosaic with the vivid colours of the models’ kimonos.’
In 2015, the foundation opened a gallery space housing a series of architectural photographs by the likes of Candida Höfer, Julius Shulman and Hiroshi Sugimoto. These have become permanent installations, following various collaborations celebrated across the rest of the foundation: from Jaime Hayon’s playful ‘Pixel Ballet’ (2007) to Marcel Wanders’ ‘Bisazza Motel’ (2004).
Bisazza campaign, 2009, capture by Nobuyoshi Araki
‘We want visitors to the Bisazza Foundation to embark on a journey of discovery, with an element of surprise as they pass through the different sections of the foundation,’ explains curator Filippo Maggia. It certainly is a jolt to the senses when the subject suddenly changes from mosaic planes and chairs to Araki’s images of kinbaku (Japanese bondage).
Maggia wanted to explore Araki’s more recent work, to put the installation in the context of the 2009 campaign. The exhibition spans Araki’s oeuvre, from his intimate Sentimental Journey series – which documented his honeymoon with his late wife Yoko – through to Love on the Left Eye, comprising partially blacked out photographs, a nod to the retinal artery obstruction in his right eye.
Those familiar with Araki’s work will see his usual themes appear: females and florals to begin with, in subtle dytiques with complex colours, which he divides with a piece of clear tape. The intensity grows with his homage to Japanese bondage in Suicide in Tokyo. Araki fans will know, too, there are more innocent motifs. Facial expressions of discomfort are juxtaposed with satisfaction; later in the exhibition, slightly humorous plastic dragons appear at random in the shots, a representation of Araki himself in the image.
As the exhibition closes, you are reminded of where you are again, with a making of video of the Bisazza campaign showing the maestro at work. Araki is depicted physically painting the tiles to build the extraordinary images, evincing the sheer soul of the foundation and how it is so much more than just a mosaic tile emporium – rather, holding a strong connection to the rest of the creative world, too.