Japanese artist Mika Ninagawa talks about taking baths when she is creatively stranded and her new kaleidoscopic exhibition in Paris

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The dazzling images of Japanese photographer and filmmaker Mika Ninagawa, many of which feature prismatic snapshots of the flora and fauna exploding in springtime, have made the 49-year-old artist one of the few female photographers to achieve cult status. in Japan.

Ninagawa, who is the daughter of the famous theater director Yukio Ninagawa, began to gain attention in the late 1990s as one of the main contributors to Japan’s “Girly Photo” movement, through which a group of pioneering young female photographers attempted to break into the man-dominated realm by taking simple and straightforward self-portraits and photos of scenes from their daily lives.

Ninagawa’s work was exhibited at the French concept store Colette in 1997the first time she showed outside of Japan– and in 2001, she won the most prestigious photography award in her native country, the Ihei Kimura Prize. Since then his photography has appeared in exhibitions around the world, from a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei to a solo exhibition at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, and his works have been acquired by Huis Marseille in Amsterdam and UBS. for his art collection. In recent years, Ninagawa has also received accolades for his work in film and television, including the 2020 Netflix drama J. Followers.

This season, the French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels called on Ninagawa for its latest “Florae” exhibition, presented until November 14 at the Hôtel d’Évreux on Place Vendôme in Paris. Darkened screen offers over 100 glittering jewels flowers—all from the house’s historic and contemporary collections, as well as the artist’s vivid, larger-than-life photographs of acid flowers. The result is a conversation between the fleeting, ethereal beauty of real flowers and that of the gem-encrusted counterparts designed in their image.

Ninagawa noted in an interview with Prestige, “Like me, Van Cleef & Arpels is fascinated by the transformations of nature. Seeing how the Maison seeks to reproduce the movement of flowers in its jewelry inspires me enormously. These pieces and my photographs are echoed in the exhibition. Together, they arouse a new fascination for flora.

To discuss the exhibit, his studio habits, and more, we recently asked Ninagawa about his creative process.

Work by Mika Ninagawa in the “Florae” exhibition by Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris. Courtesy of Takuji Shimmura and Van Cleef & Arpels.

What item do you need the most for your studio?

My laptop!

What are you most looking forward to doing in the studio tomorrow?

I went to another prefecture by high speed train yesterday and took a lot of pictures. Tomorrow I will make the final selections. I can’t wait to be there… but I also feel overwhelmed.

Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

What can we expect to see at the photography exhibition that you are presenting now with Van Cleef & Arpels?

For this collaboration, we adopted a method of displaying a combination of my flower photographs with selected jewelry inspired by Van Cleef’s collections. Architect Tsuyoshi Tane designed the exhibition and the installation, which uses lights and mirrors, is based on the concepts of kaleidoscopes and labyrinths. It is reminiscent of a fantastic garden.

When I thought about the brilliance of Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewelry, which values ​​nature so much, the choice of fresh flowers was quite organic. The brand has made the fleeting beauty of flowers eternal through their exquisite creations. I thought that the different senses of charm conveyed by each—The flowers adorned with jewels, and the real ones, photographed—would play well.

What atmosphere do you like when you work? Do you listen to music or do you prefer to work in silence?

In my office, I listen to music and work in a relaxed atmosphere. When I’m shooting in the studio, I work with a feeling of excitement and adrenaline.

What characteristics do you most admire in a work of art and which characteristics do you most despise?

For my part, I love the works so passionate that I could not help but create them. Beyond that, I don’t like works that are too logical or lack emotion.

What’s the snack you can’t live without in the studio?

Candy, because I use my brain a lot!

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get out of it?

Take a relaxing bath.

Photo courtesy of Takuji Shimmura and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Courtesy of Takuji Shimmura and Van Cleef & Arpels.

What is the last exhibition that you saw that marked you (even virtually)?

I went to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art the other day to see the Tadanori Yokoo exhibition. I was inspired by the volume of the works and by the almost obsessive creative dynamism of Yokoo.

If you had to create a moodboard, what would be there now?

I’m collecting footage for the next movie I’m going to shoot, and there are all kinds of visuals!

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