Following the success and sensation of Daisuke Yokota’s work in Asia and Europe, Roman Road is delighted to present Emergence, the first solo exhibition by the celebrated Japanese artist in London. Bringing together three distinct projects, which explore his meticulous approaches to photography and video art, the exhibition examines how he tests the limits of his media, pulling apart their composite anatomies to expose their layers and materiality. His intuitive interventions bestow his photographs with an unexpected texture, emerging a new and unimagined sense of depth and tactility. Emergence offers a rare opportunity to see unique photographic works that have been produced by the artist’s hand. The exhibition also includes a video work displayed across five monitors, adding an element of dynamism and an insight into the three-dimensional complex processes that go into the production of all Yokota’s work.
Winner of the prestigious Foam Paul Huf Award 2016, Yokota is at the vanguard of young Japanese experimental photographers. His visceral and subversive investigations of the medium hark back to an avant-garde tradition that emerged in Tokyo in the late 1960s through the work of the Provoke generation. Unified under a manifesto that sought to break the rules of traditional photography, the work of the Provoke members has been described in Japanese as ‘are-bure-boke’ (rough, blurred, and out of focus), a visual language that is certainly echoed in the work of Yokota. His process is complex and painstaking; he captures his images on a digital camera, prints them, and rephotographs them on medium-format film. He then reprints them, again and again, using light and heat, or often open flame or acid to mark and manipulate his images. The creative process and end results of Yokota’s works possess an equal and curious intensity.
For his first exhibition at Roman Road, Yokota presents a collection of recent experimental camera-less photographic works. These large-scale works are unique, which is unusual among Yokota’s oeuvre, where he often makes use of editions. With these works, Yokota investigates the chemical reactions caused by exposing photographic emulsions. Employing copious amounts of the light-sensitive colloids, which he purchased in bulk through an online auction, he liberally painted photographic papers and exposed them to light. The wet texture on the surface of the papers introduces an unexpected visual depth which contrasts with the flatness of the works’ surface. The resulting opaque and intensely black photographs are distinguished by small variations that only become apparent on close viewing. They have a mysterious magnetism, augmenting a sense of nocturnal darkness. Yokota often creates works at night that evoke a dreamlike state, contrasting the flat world of reverie with the three-dimensionality of reality.
Also exhibited in Emergence is a video installation comprising five monitors showing a single film in five different speeds. Using a trail camera, the artist documented the production process of his Matter/Vomit (2016), an installation composed of 100,000 inkjet prints coated in wax and stacked in a monumental pile. Resonating with the creative process of his photographic works, Yokota made a copy of his digitally recorded video on videotape and re-digitalised it again. By repeating this process, his video was purposely degraded and the sound gained more noises. With his video installation, Yokota imparts a critical approach towards the perfection we pursue in our digital age and ensues an abstract meditation on creation and consumption, destruction and ephemerality. The work helps viewers to visualise the layers of development and depth of meaning behind Yokota’s processes of production, and points to the motion inherent beneath the surface of his static pieces.
The exhibition lastly includes 53 photographs from Yokota’s Taratine (2015). A profoundly intimate and nostalgic project, Taratine charts a new and starkly different direction in Yokota’s work. Taking its title from an ancient gingko tree found in northern Japan, which has been worshipped by generations of women for its fertility-enhancing abilities, Yokota’s Taratine is an ode to his mother and long-time girlfriend, the most important women in his life. Nonetheless, like much of his other work, the photographs are laden with an ethereal and sensory language. Often blurry with a coarse, visible grain; scratched, or with hair or smut strewn over the surface; the images materialise a fragile yet distinctive tactility.
Beyond the discernible kindred aesthetic that can be said to resonate with the work of the Provoke pioneers, Yokota’s photographs also uncover a different, radical photographic vocabulary. By way of complex process and execution, his practice is driven by his personal and everyday experiences and his original explorations bestow to photography the ability to interpret such sensations through its own deconstructed anatomy.