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Hiro Matsuoka photographs the poetry of the visible

Juan Bufill

The Japanese photographer Hiro Matsuoka presents a large sample of his work at the gallery Esther Montoriol, under the title "Poetry". The exhibition opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde taken from "The Portrait of Dorian Gray": „The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.“

Matsuoka proposes a photographic development of Wilde’s idea. In the very first photo, we already find all that forms his vision and style: the ambiguous image, fragmented, slipped into unreality, resembling a collage of reflections. They are not natural but architectural, urban reflections. And they are not manipulated images by photomontage or digital means. These works accurately portray the ambiguous and spectral quality that the photographic image can have and they prove the reductive notion of photography understood as a way to document certainties to be untruthful.

In fact, even the earliest photographs of Niépce, taken almost two centuries ago, had a spectral appearance despite of representing solid objects, such as houses roofs or a dining room table. And throughout its history photography has never been detached from that potentially spectral quality, from that possibility of the ambiguous clue, the optical illusion and the appearance or the mysterious presence.

Some of these photographs are trompe-l'oeils or mirages achieved through a combination of different kinds of images: not only pictures of real objects, people and places, but also reproduced images - such as advertising - and distorted and reflected images in glasses, which sometimes work both as a window and as a mirror. Shadows, lights and photographic textures are associated to these images. And the reduction to black and white, with its intermediate grays, contributes to a visual indefinition that tends to the poetic opening.

In these compositions there is a certain dissolution of the visible reality, which also means an expression of subjective feelings. Sometimes they might appear to be random compositions, but they are not, nor are the ideas they represent, haziness. On the contrary, Hiro Matsuoka consciously develops different reflections and variations, and one of his main themes is the confusion of the real and the unreal, of the world and its representation through images.

As is also the case in some of the nightly photographs by Manel Esclusa - for example, those shown in the Fundació Vila Casas in the exhibition "Pell i ombra"– everyday images, such as advertising ones, become ghostly when mixed with material elements and phenomena derived from light or its absence. Then the known, affected by changes of perspective, light and focus, becomes unrecognizable. And the paradox of modernity takes place: the reproduced images appear clear and beside them the figures of the real world lose their significance and are diluted.

— La Vanguardia, 25.04.2016 (English translation by Galeria Esther Montoriol)

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