Hashigraphy is Yasuomi Hashimura’s unique combination of photography and painting, a process that produces images created in the twenty-first century but that reach back into realms which have long since disappeared—or which have yet to unfold. Using photography as a base, Hashimura (or “HASHI”) takes a picture, reworks it with paint in the darkroom, and prints it on thick, almost sculptural paper with serrated edges. The scratched and streaked surface, the ripped edges of the substrate, even the ostensibly haphazard process—all point to physical matter that has been somewhere else for a long time. The result is a multi-media object that is almost three-dimensional and one that is intended to capture the multiple planes of time and space—not only the present, past, and future—but evoking a “Future Déjà Vu” as well, as Hashimura has called it. The imagining of a past from a future yet unlived. As an archeologist uncovers history by digging down into the earth, so too Yasuomi Hashimura digs into time and challenges us to see what is not tangibly there.
Hashigraphy is meant to recall artifacts that have been long since forgotten. Laden with references to the unseen, they provoke questions. The viewer is called to reconstruct what has been lost to the ravages of time. The poignant still life photograph, Aged Champagne, Reims (Plate 29), most definitely recalls the elegant still life commercial photography for which Hashimura is so well-known. The bottles are caked with dust that has settled over many years. These bottles are old, but how old? The image is carefully composed and self-contained, bracketed by bottles on each side that are separated from the rest, one facing forward and one facing back. It is clear that Hashimura did not stage this scene but rather recognized its potential when he came upon it. He provides the structure, the viewer completes the image.
And that structure is not only the picture but the entire object that we must appreciate as well. Throughout the years, before us and after we are no longer here, objects and places are characterized and re-characterized by the people who come into contact with them. Hashimura photographed The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (Plate 23) with the intent of expressing the impression of an almost living sculpture. The work captures not only an imposing object itself but also its creator, Rodin.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Plate 15), a sculpture of the Greek goddess, now stands atop a large flight of stairs at the Louvre in Paris. This is, however, not how Hashimura chose to photograph it. Rather, we look up to it from a much closer perspective in perhaps the same manner that it was seen in ancient Greece. Quite obviously, her incomplete state evokes our present day reality. Hashimura’s technique of aging the surfaces of his images beguiles us in into believing that the Hashigraphy object itself is an artifact. He entices us into imagining that we are looking at his work as if in the future. Like the buildings or statues that he depicts, the print seems to be from the past. This disparity adds another layer of Hashimura’s study on “time,” confounding and compelling us to experience time through another paradigm.
In this paradigm, Hashigraphy transports the experience of the past into the now—experiences which will be equally immediate in the future. Everyplace carries with it a history of the past as we conceive of it. Whether it is a Parisian street, an Italian church, an excavation at Pompeii, a portrait of a priest walking, the viewer is being asked to step both backward and forward into history with him, as well as to simply be in the experience. “When I go to these places, I feel the past and its inhabitants, I sense them,” Hashimura says.
Art never exists in a vacuum and while artists continually strive for a fine art aesthetic, we are always left with objects that reflect social and political circumstances. Yasuomi Hashimura’s work—Hashigraphy and his other fine art images and commercial photographs—must be seen in this context.
(Essay continued in the book) -- Marilyn S. Kushner, Ph.D., Curator and Chair of the Prints, Drawing & Photographs Department, Brooklyn Museum in New York City