exhibition

Shigeru Onishi
The Possibility of Existence

Foam proudly presents the first European solo exhibition of the Japanese mathematician and artist Shigeru Onishi. It is the first time that his photographic oeuvre is shown in Europe, giving the artist a deserved place in the history of photography.


The exhibition The Possibility of Existence shows the forgotten photographic oeuvre of Shigeru Onishi (1928 - 1994). After graduating in topology (branch of mathematics) from Hokkaido University in 1953, the artist began to apply his mathematical theories to photography. Although his theories are fairly complex, they have produced a unique body of work that distanced him from other movements and ideas in Japanese photography of his time.

In his photographs, Onishi tried to transcend time and space: his works renounce photography as a snapshot. Images mingle in montages, or fade in his unorthodox printing methods; Onishi ignored all the rules of the darkroom. For example, he 'painted' the photographic emulsion on the photo paper with a brush, deliberately introducing irregularities in the development of the image. After 1957, Onishi stopped photographing for unknown reasons to devote himself entirely to creating abstract ink paintings.

In collaboration with MEM Gallery and Bombas Gens, Foam is showing a wide selection of vintage prints in combination with some ink paintings.

Every Sunday: Walk-in Workshop

Every Sunday, Foam offers free walk-in workshops. During this workshop, you will be inspired by the imagery of Shigeru Onishi to create your own composition, based on a memory. You start by taking three photos in black and white, which will be printed in a small size format. Afterwards, you will cut your work in small parts to rearrange on a new sheet and personalise with ink, ecoline or painting markers, like Onishi did. Your end result will be made ready during the workshop for you to take home. Please note: this workshop is in Dutch.

Zooming In Reintroducing Shigeru Onishi's Oeuvre

On 9 December, we hosted a Zoom conversation with MEM Gallery Director Katsuya Ishida and Art Critic Vicente Todolí. Together with Project Coordinator Valeria Posada, these experts will engage in a conversation about Shigeru Onishi's rare body of work, currently featured in the exhibition The Possibility of Existence.

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This exhibition is made possible by the Japan Foundation.

Foam is supported by the VriendenLoterij, Foam Members, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, the VandenEnde Foundation and the City of Amsterdam.

In 2021 Foam receives additional support from the Mondriaan Fund and Kickstart Cultuurfonds.