For many decades now, Nobuyoshi Araki's (Tokyo, Japan, 1940) central themes have been sex and death. In his photographs, they have always co-existed, depended on each other: there can be no lust for life, without the threat of death.
The exhibition It Was Once a Paradise, by the world-famous Japanese photographer, now in his 81st year, featured 40 diptychs where Araki addressed the complex relationship between loss and desire, which translates as despair and hope, separation and symbiosis, the internal and the other.
The diptychs, each comprising two very important bodies of work bring these two essential sides of Araki's world together. But they also suggest other pairings: home and work; the personal and the impersonal; the homely and the erotic.
On one side of the diptych, in nostalgic, elegiac monochrome, he captures his private world. Often, these are close-ups of his beloved Tokyo balcony, a sanctuary where he used to enjoy the companionship of both his late wife and his cat. In these images, that personal space, although still redolent of happier times, has become a wasteland inhabited and patrolled by plastic dinosaurs, The dinosaur - at once fascinating, predatory, and fabled - has long been recognized as Araki's alter-ego. While Araki himself is not present in these black and white images, the toy dinosaurs that populate the scenes serve to show the indelible, inescapable, nature of memory.
Countering these black and white scenes are striking colour images of naked women in erotic and at times, challenging poses. Some are tied up - almost bandaged; others are more freely provocative. This is Araki's trademark subject matter, which has earned him international admiration. Occasionally, perhaps inevitably, the intimate mingles with the erotic, manifest in a plastic dinosaur crossing from one scene into another.
Visually, Araki's diptychs startle and excite. They leave an imprint in the mind. At first, they bear no relation to each other but taken together, they are some of the most complete and personal works the artist has ever produced.
These c-print diptychs entitled "Sky" and "Kaori" respectively, mark the first works featuring both private diary and colour bondage works. These diptychs are housed in a handmade linen slipcase, include a signed copy of the publication, and were produced in close collaboration with the artist on the occasion of his exhibition It Was Once A Paradise.