IBASHO presents a solo show of geisha, model, actor, singer, performer, photographer and artist Hanayo

IBASHO is pleased to present the solo-exhibition ‘Hanayo – Keep an Eye Shut’.

Hanayo is a Japanese artist (1970) who has pursued a multifaceted career since the late 1980s, encompassing the roles of geisha, model, actor, singer, performer, photographer and artist, developing an unconventional approach to expression, based on a highly original worldview described by curator Jérôme Sans as “Hana-world.” ​ 

To mark the publication of the book Keep an Eye Shut by Kehrer Verlag, covering thirty years of Hanayo’s photographic output, Hanayo’s solo-exhibition at IBASHO will show works from her book spanning a period from 1990 until 2020.

After joining the photography club at junior high school, Hanayo was given an Olympus half-frame camera by her father as a memento of her grandfather, and from around 1989 she began photographing happenings around her and people she encountered. 

At high school, as well as joining with friends to publish a zine they dubbed High School Girls News, she modeled for the novel Tokyo Tongari Kids serialised in culture magazine Takarajima

At nineteen she began training as a geisha, and was catapulted to icon status with appearances on Japanese TV and stage, and even further afield when she adorned the cover of British magazine The Face in geisha mode. 

Throughout these varied explorations she continued taking photographs, and in 1996, the year she moved to London, made her official debut as a photographer with the book Hanayome, noted for its vivid, vibrant images. 

After moving to Berlin in 1999 she met the film director and performance artist Christoph Schlingensief and went on to appear in several of his theater and performance pieces, such as portraying Yoko Ono in the performance Mein Filz, mein Fett, mein Hase (English: My Felt, My Fat, My Hare) at documenta X in Kassel. Hanayo’s version of the song ‘Joe le taxi’ (Vanessa Paradis, 1988) has been featured on many compilations, including 2 Many DJs with Soulwax.

On returning to Japan in 2011, Hanayo embarked on her first venture into black and white photography, and remains based in Tokyo, where she continues to present new work.

Photographing whatever takes Hanayo’s fancy in her surroundings, whether that is a portrait, everyday landscape, or abstract image, and incorporating accidental products of photography like under- and over-exposure and uneven development alongside the seductive colours and delicate analog nuances of the half-frame camera, Hanayo has brought to fruition an imaginary world somehow different to that of reality. 

Impossible to pigeonhole, constantly unfolding new aspects of creative practice amid some unique expansions and associations across multiple artistic disciplines, by refusing to give most of her photographic works titles, or turn them into series, Hanayo rejects the idea of linking her works with any specific proper noun or category. Images thus dispatched into the world connect loosely through their unconventional tone, and through their liberation from additional information in the form of connotations of time, space, and place, form the photographic realm of Hanayo, with its admixture of this world’s beauty and ephemerality. 


“What exactly is expression? I don’t care how many hundreds of times I am embarrassed on stage, or whether I continue taking pictures until I die, or if I keep holding exhibitions for half a century. What I can say is that expression can only exist under freedom.” ​
- Hanayo, 2021.

IBASHO # 52 ​
Hanayo - Keep an Eye Shut
12 May - 12 June 2022
Tolstraat 67, 2000 Antwerp




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