ISSEI SUDA Human Memory

We are pleased to present the exhibition “Human Memory” by the Japanese artist Issei Suda.

Photographs from Issei Suda’s best-known series “Fûshi Kaden” from 1978 will be shown, along with a selection of works from his retrospective monograph “Human Memory”.

The artist comprises an original position in Japanese photography with his portraits and street scenes. The works of Issei Suda have their origin in the so-called “Kompora” photography (derived from the Japanese transliteration of “Contemporary Photographers”) from the end of the ’60s. The goal of this movement was to render the everyday, the ordinary, in simple and direct compositions. This unpretentious approach to reality was expanded upon by Issei Suda with the aspect of the mysterious in his images.

Issei Suda began his career in 1967 as a stage photographer and documentarist of the avant-garde theatre group “Tenjo Sajiki,” a theatrical troupe directed by poet-playwright Terayama Shuji. In the early ’70s, his travels through Japan brought about the series “Fûshi Kaden”. This title was taken by Suda from the textbook of Japanese Noh Theatre written in the beginning of the 15th C by the Noh master Zeami. The Noh Theatre is a synthesis of the arts of word, music and dance.

An approximate translation of “Fûshi Kaden” is “the transmission of the flower of acting style.” The “flower” referred to in the title is central to the concept of Zeami. For him, the flower is the symbol of beauty, and in the sphere of Noh, it describes the creation of a new apparition. This new image arises through the expression of an individual’s innate nature fused to the exact perception of the surrounding environment.

Issei Suda refers to Zami’s world of thinking with the use of this title. The photographs made by the artist on many travels concentrate on street scenes, on the beauty of patters and textures, and above all on people at traditional celebrations. In his images, Suda shows people as unconscious actors in the area of tension between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The people portrayed are seen in mysterious scenes, in part bound to dreamlike landscapes; however, they are also often seen as isolated and lonely. This dual perspective of everyday life provokes us to feel what is described by Zeami as “futei,” or “artistry.”

In the exhibition are shown, along with the photographs from the series “Fûshi Kaden,” also works from the ’70s and ’80s from the book “Human Memory.” In this monograph published in 1996 Suda concentrates especially on people in the cities of Japan. As in “Fûshi Kaden,” everything deemed unnecessary is eliminated from the picture and the observer’s view concentrated on the mysterious essence of the subject. Here as well, our attention is drawn to the extraordinary aspects of the everyday, showing the author’s particular perception of the world. His strict compositions, taken mostly with a 6 x 6 cm camera, appear to mirror aspects of reality which are not seen by the naked eye, but appear during the moment of photographing the surface of reality.

Brief Biography
Issei Suda, born 1940 in Tokyo, lives today in Chiba. Studies at Tokyo College of Photography until 1962. From 1967 stage photographer for the Avantgarde Theater group „Tenjo Sajiki“, which was under the direction of the poet and playwright Shuji Terayama. From 1971 independent photographer. 1991-1997 operator of the Haranagacho-bashi Gallery.

The works of Issei Suda have been shown since the 1970s in international group exhibitions. Among others, „Neue Fotografie aus Japan“, Graz 1978; „Japan: A Self-Portrait“, International Center of Photography, New York 1979; “Japanese Photography in the 1970s – Memories Frozen in Time”, Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo 1991; and „The History of Japanese Photography“, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 2003.

– „Newcomer’s Award“, The Photographic Society of Japan, 1976
– „Annual Award“, The Photographic Society of Japan, 1983
– „1st Domestic Photography Award“, Higashikawa International Photography Festival, Hokkaido, 1985
– „Domon Ken Prize“, 1997 for the book „Human Memory“

– Fûshi Kaden. Tokyo 1978
– My Tokyo 100 (Waga Tokyo 100). Tokyo 1979
– Whimsy, Photographs, Walks: A Dog’s Nose (Kimagure, Shashin, Sanpô: Inu no hana) Tokyo 1991
– Human Memory (Ningen no kioku). Tokyo 1996
– Japanese Photographers, vol. 40: Issei Suda (Nihon no Shashinka 40: Suda Issei). Tokyo 1998
– Scarlet Bloom (Akai Hana). Tokyo 2000
– Suda Issei. Fûshi Kaden. JCII Photo Salon, Tokyo 2005
– Min´yô Sanga. Tokyo 2007