Exhibition Review: Just Love
By Kayla Royster
The Miyako Yoshinaga gallery is featuring Just Love, a solo exhibition from the award-winning Tokyo photographer Emi Anrakuji from May 31st to July 7th. Depicted within the 26 showcased black and white monochrome self-portraits, Anrakuji illustrates a unique interest in her body and the photographs portray her obsession with creating erotic forms. Originally a painter, Anrakuji was diagnosed with cerebral cancer causing the degeneration of her eyesight in her twenties. After almost a decade without creating art she discovered the camera, and in doing so she replaced her eyesight with a lens.
Anrakuji’s photographs render an intentional lack of depth as well as photos in high contrast. The work showcased in this exhibition is a series of differing desires portrayed through her photography in which she photographs her extremities such as her legs, feet, toes, arms, breast, vagina, torso, and hair all whilst keeping her identity hidden. This series of photographs takes place within rooms or, occasionally, what seems to be a balcony or fire escape. The images of her body are shown in everyday positions, deeply shadowed, such as leaning on a bathtub or laying on the floor. A simple position depicted with a dark aura because as the viewers eye moves amongst the shadows in these monochrome images there is tangible sense of entrapment.
The overexposed and seemingly washed out photos also contain the use of her cat forcing the viewer to do a double take, and with that double take it is clear that there is a deeper meaning to determine. In three of the photographs a cat is seen alongside Anrakuji. When she stands her hair covers her face and breasts whilst the cat covers her lower region. When crouching she hides herself behind her hair yet again and the cat becomes the focus of the photos, reestablishing her theme of entrapment wherein the cat is her only companion inside of her hidden world.
Anrakuji’s work is raw, showing every part of her body with only her face hidden in multiple photos beneath her long dark hair. Hair that seems to symbolize her entrapment as it tangles around her neck. The photos of her laying on the floor beside the bed, instead of on the bed itself, suggest her exhaustion, both physically and mentally. The light, which is illuminating part of the room, represents the outside world, so close yet so far.
All of these self-portraits and images symbolic of her limited mobility and the feeling of confinement Anrakuji had experienced due to her serious illness that occurred all those years ago. The photos tell a story of how trapped she felt partaking in daily activities deemed excruciatingly normal such as drying clothes, lounging in bed, and eating. A series of photos tells a story that eventually ends with Anrakuji making her way onto a balcony, where, in the sun, she freely poses and dances. Her shadow emits a happiness explaining and giving context to the exhibition title, Just Love.