top コラムExhibition ReportVol.27 Risa Uzuki "Opaque Beast" 卯月梨沙「不透明なけもの」

Exhibition Report

Vol.27 Risa Uzuki "Opaque Beast" 卯月梨沙「不透明なけもの」

John Sypal

「不透明なけもの」-Opaque Beast- is Risa Uzuki’s exploration of a fellow artist- an unnamed thirty-year old Nihon-ga painter who shifts between form and age with paranormal ease. She appears in the pictures as muscle and bones and sinew and taut flesh- one moment a child, the next a contorted crone or a slippery, grinning nude mystic. She possesses a feminine, atavistic presence that distorts immediate reality- her aura creates ripples of eros shadowed by a lingering sense of dark magic.


How much of this sensation is the subject’s essence and how much is the result of Uzuki’s sensibilities is for the viewer to decide. Uzuki told me that the woman in the photographs explored her time before the camera as a form of self-portraiture. Both collaborators seem drawn to a murky boundary between subject and self. 


There is another spirit at play- in addition to the two women, photography, or at least its gods, are given space to work their magic. Uzuki channels these spirits through her standard lens and uncropped, black and white prints. Her pictures appreciate the phenomena which these photo gods reveal when given free rein and respect. This combination of interest in mysteries and contradictions of individuals and medium allows the work to transcend the typical gender/political messages which so many contemporary photographers tie themselves down with. Freed from words and politics and explanations and excuses, Uzuki’s photography feels positively, somewhat unsettlingly, fresh.


The exhibition was held at Gallery Niepce, a small space tucked away on the second floor of an old apartment building in Shinjuku. In a cozy place like this the size and number of Uzuki's prints could have felt a little overwhelming but this impact was tempered through the use of a dimmer, orange glow for lighting. This illumination method heightened the mystery of the images.  Shadows, praised. 

Junichiro Tanizaki would have approved.


Along the east wall were three Nihon-ga pieces by the subject of the photographs. The pairing worked well, since the self-portrait elements in the paintings reverberated in tune with the photographs that surrounded them. 

Uzuki has recently self-published a book of this work. On its white, cloth-bound cover is the title- penned by the subject of the photos. Its sequencing is brilliant- this is one of my favorite books of 2023. 


There is no doubt the Risa Uzuki’s photographs will have an impact in the coming years. With the right publisher- and an editor that knows enough to step back and let her work her magic- her future photobooks will be welcome contributions to the world. 





















  • Risa Uzuki "Opaque Beast"
  • Gallery Niepce Nov.28 – Dec.3, 2023
  • 卯月梨沙「不透明なけもの」
  • ギャラリーニエプス
  • 2023年11月28日〜12月3日


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