If you think these photographs look a bit studied, well, it’s because they are. Japanese photographer Hisaji Hara has carefully replicated scenes from the paintings of mid-century modernist Balthus. The French/Polish painter’s work has been called “both naive and slightly sinister” – but I’d go so far as to call it eerie, dark and erotically charged. His prolific ourvre focused most readily on semi-dressed adolescent girls lounging around luxurious apartment, often with an ever present sense of danger hanging in the air. All pretty ripe material, which Hara re-imagines in a new medium and a new, Japanese setting.
The results are decidedly less threatening than the originals, though still retaining a touch of that slightly sinister sensuality. Commitment to on-site technique is paramount in Hara’s work, none of the photos are retouched in post production. He creates his images through multiple exposures coupled with the use of “smoke machines and cinematic lighting” to lend the images a soft, painterly quality. A highly complicated procedure no doubt, but the the results appear effortless, full of an uncanny timelessness and romance.
A wonderful exercise in imitation and interpretation, one which both flatters and questions the originals themselves. Opening last Friday at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, this is Hara’s first European solo show.