Light on Asia

Fri 21 Feb 2014Sat 26 Apr 2014

In Spring 2014 Bernheimer Fine Art Photography will be presenting Light on Asia, an exhibition of black and white photographs by the famous photographer Michael Kenna, based on his journeys through Asia in their gallery at 7. Brienner Strasse, Munich.

Michael Kenna set himself the objective of visiting remote places and capturing them with his camera. His technique is to immerse himself fully in his subject matter, and this intense artistic involvement with his subjects and the care taken in setting up the shots is evident in the exhibited photographs, which show Kenna’s feeling for atmosphere and composition. The deliberate way in which Kenna sets about capturing the “soul” of his subjects, lends his photographs a calm, meditative quality, whose mystery is enhanced by Kenna’s preference for taking photographs at dusk and night-time. The mountains, lakes, bays and cities shown in these photographs have a dreamlike atmosphere and even familiar subjects are presented as though they were new discoveries, opening unforeseen worlds to the viewer. Nothing is superfluous or left to chance in these carefully arranged photographs.

In this third solo exhibition of around fifty photographs by Michael Kenna, the visitor is invited to take a sensational trip through Asia, from Japan, South Korea, China and India to Vietnam. On this journey we pass through the “Huangshan Mountains” in southern China, with their bizarre projecting rock formations, gnarled pines and steep mountain slopes shrouded in a dense sea of clouds, and follow the course of the “Lijang River”, with its clear waters and sandbanks, fringed by steep mountains and spectacular rocks. In addition to capturing the different shapes of Nature, Kenna also shows us the foremost industrial city in China: Shanghai with its skyline studded with iconic buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and Jin Mao Tower sparkling in the darkness of the night. From Japan, land of the rising sun, Kenna brings his impressions of Hokkaido Island, the northernmost of the four main islands of Japan, with its natural landscapes, mountains, woods, rivers, active volcanoes and thermal springs. Hokkaido has a temperate climate during the summer months, but Michael Kenna’s pictures show us the diversity and beauty of the island’s winter and its dramatic snowscapes. Near Mount Fuji, a favourite subject for Japanese artists, is“Lake Yamanaka”, the inspiration for one Kenna’s most powerfully atmospheric photographs.

On his travels to South Korea, Kenna seems to have been particularly inspired by the landscape of Shinan, famous for its numerous unspoilt islands, where, over a period of two years, he produced some of his most graphic photographs, published in 2013 in the catalogue “Shinan”.

Kenna’s India photographs, by contrast, show deserted beaches and cities, which provide a vivid contrast to his pictures of the world-renowned tea plantations in and around Munnar, former summer resort of the British Government in South India and the important area for the production of tea and spices. In Vietnam the photographer concentrated on studying the “Ha Long Bay”, the so-called “Bay of the Descending Dragons”, situated in the North of the country and renowned for its two thousand or so chalk rocks, mostly inhabited islands, an area known for fishing and oyster farming.

For over twenty years Michael Kenna takes photographs using a manually operated Hasselblad camera. Instead of editing his images digitally Kenna prefers the darkroom process, which is an essential part of the “hand-crafted” nature his work. Apart from a few prints, his photographs measure 20 x 20 cm.

After attending the Banbury School of Art, Oxfordshire, England (1972-73), Kenna began a Higher National Diploma in Photography in 1973 graduating with a distinction in 1976. In 1977 he moved to San Francisco, where he lived and worked until recently. In San Francisco he got to know Ruth Bernard (Berlin 1905 – San Francisco 2006), the American photographer of German extraction who has had a great influence on Kenna’s creative development. Bernard once called Kenna’s photos “islands of serenity and silence in a loud and chaotic world.”[1] A phrase which sums up vividly the fascination of his photographs. Michael Kenna lives and works in Seattle Washington, USA. His work is represented exclusively in Germany by Bernheimer Fine Art Photography Munich.


[1] Bernard, Ruth: „Beneath the Silver“, in: Kenna, Michael: A Twenty Year Retrospective, Tucson, Arizona 2004.