Photoskiagraphia : Weight of Light
"You aren't shiny enough to see me, but I can see you"
One day I saw a parka with a chrome zipper shaped like a small fish. Thinking it might reflect my surroundings like a mirror, I leaned in to get a closer look, but the chrome was too dull and didn’treflect my face. All I saw was a cloudy fish. Out of nowhere the words came to my mouth, "You aren't shiny enough to see me, but I can see you" . The fish's “ego” was too strong, it clouded over me: I couldn’t exist in the fish’s world.
Natural phenomenon and the human mind seem to share some resonant quality by which we knownature is beautiful. Something unseen by the eyes, yet like an oceanic font of life that fills this vastuniverse, it touches the human mind. From this intuitive insight, I have taken as my working themethe question of how to visualise this invisible realm of the universe, this something in the phenomenal universe that speaks to our heart and enables us to open doors of new sensibility through understanding, empathy, synchronicity and physical experience.
I have coined the word photoskiagraphia from the Greek photo (light), skia (shadow) and graphia (picture) to describe how polarities of both light and shadow coexist and interact when a transparent drawing material/support is illuminated. In this series, I have added a mirror element tothe photoskiagraphia I presented in my previous exhibition Residue, making a total of threecomponent elements: virtually invisible colourless transparent resin; mirrors reflecting materialexistence; and light that makes the configuration visible.
Ricca Kawai November 2017
On transparency as a medium
Kawai has created a new form of expression in which light and shadow coexist and interact when
illuminating a transparent pictorial material/support, works she calls photoskiagraphia after the Greek
photo (light), skia (shadow) and graphia (picture).
There exist astronomical phenomena that have mass but cannot be optically observed. Such so-called
“dark matter” tells us that the world is not necessarily composed only of things we can see. Diving right
into these findings, Kawai takes as her theme the challenge of making this invisible realm visible.
Working with epoxy resin since 2003, she used “water droplets” of transparent resin applied to a
window pane in a 2013 self-portrait to let raindrops bring out the form, which then acted as a lens to
cast both light and shadow onto the wall.
Kawai’s artistic process recalls Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (vol. 35), wherein the traced silhouette
of a lover killed in battle becomes a painting. Shadow drawings, or in Kawai’s terminology skiagraphie,
likewise bear relation to the calotype “shadow fixing” technique of early photography. What Kawai
seems to be seeking via the transparency of resin as a medium is not the simple reality that even
translucence produces shadows, but rather to show how various contingent aspects — the thickness
or clarity of the medium — effect a transformation. Not in the given visible image as we might expect,
but an experience of generating a transformed image out of an unimaginable unseen realm.
Head Curator, Yokohama Civic Gallery Azamino