‘There’s something very satisfying about the temporal nature of the subject, which is a mere two-week window of time in Japanese culture; the act of scattering these confetti negatives reflects its essential ephemerality.’
Inspired by a trip to Tokyo and Kyoto during the Sakura cherry blossom season, Aliki Braine’s extraordinary images offer an original interpretation of the immersive experience of Hanami – the traditional Japanese custom of viewing and honouring the transient beauty of cherry blossoms.
In recognition of this phenomenon, these two series convey the profusion and fragility of the blossom petals, from their magnificence on the branch to their life’s end on the ground below.
A Thousand Fallen Blossoms
For her series A Thousand Fallen Blossoms, Braine first photographed the pink blossomed tree branches. Although appreciative of photography’s ‘wonderful and magical capacity for exactitude’, it is the abstract qualities produced by manipulating the negatives that she finds so alluring.
Imitating the ruination of the laden branches when the petals give way to the force of the breeze, Braine took a holepunch to her colour negatives and created hundreds of tiny discs containing fragments of the original blossoms.
Dropping these discs like ‘negative confetti’ onto the negative holder of the darkroom enlarger, Braine’s process echoes the flurry of falling petals as they drift in the wind from the branch to the ground. This random and unpredictable fall of the confetti creates a unique composition, which she prints only once before repeating the process.
This same technique was applied to the blue skies framing the blossom…
…and to the rainwater on the ground upon which they fell.
Responding to the series, writer Duncan Wooldridge fittingly cites photographer Chihiro Minato, who wrote that the Japanese word for landscape – fuukei – translates into a ‘scenery of wind’ and ‘the idea of connection between all things such as the earth and the heavens, existence and absence…are tied to the aether by the wind.’
10000 Fallen Petals
Intrigued by the abundance of scattered petals covering the pavements, Braine made a series of 17 black and white images to form the basis of 10,000 Fallen Petals. Frustrated by the too descriptive nature of her photographs, she chose to apply tiny Japanese stickers to the negatives, individually covering each petal that had fallen to the pavement. For each petal, a sticker; 10,000 in all.
Wanting to create a sense of journey and passing time, Braine states: ‘the spaces covered by the stickers, which read as white in the printing process, become both an abstraction and a kind of memory of the shape that the petal made on the floor’.
The title of this series draws on Braine’s art history expertise through its reference to a 17th century Chinese ink painting called 10,000 Ugly Ink Blots by artist and monk Shitao. A hand-bound, limited-edition book accompanies the prints. Structurally mirroring Shitao’s diptych painting, double and triple pages offer beautiful little diptychs and triptychs, complete with a short text by artist, writer and curator Duncan Wooldridge.
Aliki Braine (b.1976, Paris) studied at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University, the Slade School of Fine Art and The Courtauld Institute, where she gained an MA distinction in the History of Art.
For her visual arts practice she was awarded the Salon Art Prize, Matt Roberts Arts in 2012. She has exhibited nationally and internationally including London, Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Geneva and Jakarta. Her work has been published in numerous books and magazines and is held in both private and corporate collections worldwide.
Installation and works photography by © David Rowan
Film by Luke J. Collins, Music by Felix Taylor
Open physically in the gallery from April 17th – May 14th 2021