In recent years, Rinko Kawauchi’s exploration of the cadences of the everyday has begun to swing farther afield from her earlier photographs focusing on tender details of day-to-day living.
In her series and resulting book Ametsuchi (Aperture, 2013), she concentrated mainly on the volcanic landscape of Japan’s Mount Aso, using a historic site of Shinto rituals as an anchor for a larger exploration of spirituality. In Halo, Kawauchi expands this inquiry, this time grounding the project with photographs of the southern coastal region of Izumo, in Shimane Prefecture, interweaving them with images from New Year celebrations in Hebei province, China―a five-hundred-year old tradition in which molten iron is hurled in lieu of fireworks―and her ongoing fascination with the murmuration of birds along the coast of Brighton, England. Cycles of time, implicit and subliminal patterns of nature and human ritual, are mesmerizingly knit together in these pages.
Contemporary Japanese photography has not often been concerned with the natural landscape; the seemingly ever-expanding cityscape of Tokyo was more of a preoccupation up until 2011, a moment when the presumed order of things―natural, civic, and otherwise―was upended by the combined disasters of tsunami, earthquake, and human miscalculation. Kawauchi’s most recent work is not a commentary on natural disaster and unnatural aftermath. It is, however, an acknowledgment of larger forces at play.