“Each individual project made by Fukase has a totally different matrix and subject. He did not use the same printing styles nor photography techniques for each project. This is most unusual and it is one of the elements that makes him so very special”
- Michael Hoppen
Fukase is renowned for his obsessive, intense and deeply introspective photographs with which he attempted to describe his passionate and sometimes violent life. The different bodies of work he produced are extraordinary for how disparate they are visually. A truly conceptual artist he altered the language of his work to suit the different narratives he created. Perhaps the most widely recognised of his projects is The Solitude of Ravens, which he created over a period of ten years following the breakdown of his second marriage. Stark and monochrome, the ravens become a symbol of lost love and unendurable heartbreak, and are deeply autobiographical, with Fukase himself as the real subtext.
Bukubuku (Bubbling) is the last series Fukase completed and exhibited before the debilitating fall in 1992 that left him in a coma. The series is made up of 79 self-portraits made in the bathtub with a waterproof camera. Regarded as Fukase's last great work, Bukubuku has been described as 'a whimsical if somewhat morbid game of solitaire that charts new territory for the photographic self-portrait,' a visualisation of madness and death. This unique set of prints is now on display at Tate Modern as part of their exhibition Performing for the Camera. It was last exhibited in 1992 alongside other works including Hibi.
Hibi is again a total departure from Fukase's other work. The series is comprised of street photographs, images of the grooves and cracks in the pavement. Each of the black and white images painstakingly attends to the road's surface - the worn road-markings, the fading lines and arrows eroded by the city's innumerable inhabitants, a web of fissures in the asphalt. He then overlaid this set of bromide prints with fluid drawings in brightly coloured inks. On every image the physical presence of the artist is traced; a shadow cast on the pavement, a thumbprint or the artist's shoes as seen from above. All of which seem to offer a reading, an interpretation but one that can never be fully resolved. Hibi will be published in full by Mack Books in April of this year, we will be displaying a small selection of these rare prints at the upcoming Armory Exhibition (March 3-6th 2016).
Masahisa Fukase was born in the town of Bifuka in the Nakagawa District, Hokkaido, Japan in 1934. He graduated from the Nihon University College of Art's Photography Department in 1956. Fukase became a freelance photographer in 1968 after working at the Nippon Design Center and Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers.
His work has been exhibited widely at institutions such as MoMA, New York, Oxford Museum of Modern Art, UK, Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. His work is held in major collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, SFMoMA, USA, The Metropolitan Museum, of Art, New York, and The Getty Museum, Los Angeles. He is also the winner of prizes such as the 2nd Ina Nobuo Award in 1976 for his exhibition "Karasu" as well as the Special Award at the 8th Higashikawa Photography Awards in 1992.