Michael Kenna: China

“I don’t need to be fast, I don’t need high definition, I don’t need to see the world in colour – that’s what we see all the time. I want my work to be mysterious, an interpretation, a catalyst for one’s imagination.”
– Michael Kenna

Michael Kenna’s exhibition China highlights an impressive body of photographic work made between 2006 and 2014. The exhibition features the famous mountains and landscapes of Huangshan, Lijiang and Yuanyang as well as less known locations in Heliongjang, Xiapu and Yunnan. It includes work from the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, and locally from Hong Kong. Many of the images are compiled in MichaelKenna’s latest book project, also titled China, recently published by Posts and Telecom Press, Beijing.

Michael Kenna is one of the most important landscape photographers. His timeless monochrome images capture the inner essence of nature’s beauty. Kenna filters reality through long time exposures, which create ‘empty’ space, reminding us of Chinese ink paintings. When photographing, Kenna looks for simplicity of lines and interesting abstract forms.

Kenna resists the fast pace dictated to us in today’s rushed city life and prefers to take his time and work alone, slowly. He has been doing this for over forty years. When he explores a new location he never knows ahead of time how long he will be there: a few minutes, some hours or days. He often returns to the same place repeatedly over a long period of time. As Kenna says: “It’s like connecting with a friend; you never know how long a conversation will last and which area the conversation will go into.” This attitude extends to his working method in the darkroom. Kenna still works in analogue only. He photographs primarily with Hasselblad film cameras and spends hours in the darkroom developing the perfect photographic print as if he was chiseling a sculpture. The resulting atmospheric imagery expresses a unique zen-like tranquility.

Kenna has been photographing in Asia since the mid eighties, particularly in Japan, and more recently in China, India, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. He admits to being strongly influenced by the sense of serenity and calmness in the Asian landscape. It harkens back to the essence of haiku poetry, the power of suggestion over description. “I’ve also looked at Asian calligraphy and traditional sumi-e paintings. These artworks have been very influential. My style has grown increasingly more minimal and sparse”.

  • Artists:
    Michael Kenna
  • Open:
    Friday, 20 June 2014
  • Close:
    Saturday, 30 August 2014
  • Address:
    3-13\/F Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan, Hong Kong
  • Mail:
  • Phone:
    +852 2976 0913
  • Web:
    AO Vertical Art Space
  • Opening hour:
    Tue – Sat | 10am – 6pm
  • Closing day:
    Mon, Sun
  • Photo credits:
    Michael Kenna: 1. Steady Boat, Xiapu, China, 2010, Sepia Toned Silver Gelatin Print, 40cm X 50cm; 2. Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China 2008, Sepia Toned Silver Gelatin Print, 40cm X 50cm; 3.Lake Bridge, Hongkun, Anhui, China, 2008, Sepia Toned Silver Gelatin Print, 40cm X 50cm; Courtesy of Michael Kenna and AO Vertical


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