Sumptuous Colors | Mika Ninagawa Exhibition in Shanghai
How did you spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve? It's that time of the year where even the freezing temperature can't bring down your festive spirits. I usually celebrate by retail therapy. Double 11, Black Friday, Boxing Day…..it’s so tempting to fill up our stockings with way too many presents for ourselves.
But this year, I decided to celebrate in another way. After all, the goods that you can touch and feel aren’t the ones that truly touch your heart. I wanted to give myself a present for the mind and the soul, so I visited the much-anticipated Mika Ninagawa exhibition in Shanghai. And I was blown away, to say the least!
Mika Ninagawa is best known for her photographs on flowers. Whether captured in heavily pigmented colors or in light pastel shades, Ninagawa’s flowers are always so lively and alluring in the photos. Even though I am not a big fan of flowers (they tend to die rather quickly in my hands), I was still mesmerized by the color and forms when I walked into the exhibition room.
Natural objects – flowers, leafs, birds – are represented in their most beautiful moments and in the most vivid colors. Because these objects have shorter lifespans, their beauty are often cherished, celebrated, and remembered. Each of Ninagawa’s images are a clash of pastel, translucent color blocks that form a contrast, like the inside of a kaleidoscope.
The flowers found in the exhibition are in a variety of colors, including the more common ones like pink and red, but there are also rare colors like blue. In the short interview film found in the B1 exhibition hall, Ninagawa explained that the blue flowers are actually white roses that have been given artificial blue dye. The pigmentation starts to fade once the base of the flower is placed into water, so the blue shade would eventually dissipate and disappear. Moreover, the pigment actually kills the flower faster, so even though the blue flower may seem the most fabulous at one point, it also loses its allure and life sooner than others.
This reminds me of a recent thought: in our society today, the standard of beauty is becoming more and more unattainable. We as humans use all sorts of artificial tools and procedures to turn ourselves into a blue flower. But the moment we become that, we forever lose our natural beauty. I wonder, how many of us have secrets behind those beautiful pictures in social media?
Light & Shadow
Walking into this box filled with moving colors in the most vivid forms, it's as if I walked straight into my wildest dreams. With every sway and twirl, I felt like I was going deeper and deeper into the fantasy.
The goldfish series is also one of Ninagawa’s most popular works. I find them to be quite similar to the flowers, but the way she photographed the goldfish is even more out-of-the-world. The stunning colors of the goldfish can be accredited to human breeding.
This again makes me want to ask, have we all gone too far with our chase of beauty, that we have to disrupt the cycle of nature?
Transparency x Lights x Layers
Many people say that the image of you in a picture represents the photographer’s view. (So ladies, use this logic to perfect your boyfriend/husband’s photo-taking skills.) Ninagawa’s photos of the male celebrities seem to prove that this theory is true. Through conversations and interactions, Ninagawa gains the trust of these male celebrities prior and during the photoshoot, so she can get the most intimate, natural shots of the men.
When you are walking through the black-and-white exhibition hall and glance through all the photos, you really do get the sense that these famous men seem to be looking at you as if you are their lover.
Some of Ninagawa’s magazine editorial shots and commercial works are exhibited in this area. She can always make the models and celebrities seamlessly integrate into the set, so they, too, can blossom in front of the camera.
Ninagawa’s influence on pop culture is top notch – I probably learned of her through her collaborations with brands of color contacts, handbags, and accessories. Her most famous film projects are Sakuran and Helter Skelter. If you haven’t seen those films, just Google/Baidu image the movie title. You’ll immediately see Ninagawa’s influence on the costume, sets, and mood.
Dress: Grace Deng
Heels: Steve Madden
Sidenote: I rented this beautiful dress from the MsParis APP! There are a ton of clothes available on the platform that is suitable for all sorts of occasions. I often need new clothes to be photographed in, but I feel guilty buying clothes and only wearing them a few times. MsParis to the rescue! I love the brand's mission of a shared closet. It's a sustainable concept that fits the needs of the modern-day women.
Here's a screenshot of the APP. Feel free to scan the QR code to get to know MsParis better!