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©Nobuyoshi Araki courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery / Taka Ishii Gallery.Kinbaku, 1980-2000/2013

Power Play

We take a closer look at Araki’s most controversial body of work - his Kinbaku bondage series

Rope may be a humble device, but it is the erotic power that photographer Nobuyoshi Araki employs when tying together his female subjects that really ignites his highly sexual work. Kinbaku-bi translates to ‘the beauty of tight binding’, a concept the photographer uses in his controversial Kinbaku series. Within this body of work he challenges views on pleasure and beauty as well as the cultural bind that has historically constrained the Japanese population. Currently showing at London’s Michael Hoppen Contemporary and in line with the release of Araki’s latest volume Bondage, the series contrasts pale flesh with vivid kimonos in an exploration of freedom and constraint.

“Women? Well they are gods. They will always fascinate me. As for rope, I always have it with me. Even when I forget my film, the rope is always in my bag. Since I can’t tie their hearts up, I tie their bodies up instead,” Araki explains. “I … squeeze the passion from inside, then an emotion something similar to love comes out from me as well; in other words, I tie up the bond between us.”

In this way, Araki takes ownership of his subjects and when confronting his images one must consider the context of Kinbaku itself; as a display of love between the binder and the bound, a Japanese association far removed from Western understandings of bondage.

It’s also Araki’s use of contrasts via traditional props, delicate lighting and saturated colour palette that makes his political commentary all the more subversive. As Michael Hoppen, founder of Michael Hoppen Gallery and Michael Hoppen Contemporary explains: “Araki has remained consistent for all these years and continues to examine Japanese tradition and the hypocrisy of the censorship that can still exist in his country.” Furthering the study of cultural constraints, the exhibition also features a collection of original 18th and 19th century Japanese Shunga prints, an early form of covertly distributed erotic art.

Nobuyoshi Araki is at the Michael Hoppen Contemporary until June 8.