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Foam presents the first international solo exhibition of Nerhol. This successful artist duo was founded in 2007 in Japan, as a collaboration between the graphic designer Yoshihisa Tanaka (1980) and the sculptor Ryuta Iida (1981). Together they explore the concept of the photographic portrait. By combining photographic and sculptural techniques, the artists reveal a complexity that photography usually obscures.
Traditionally, a portrait presents a three-dimensional face on a flat plane. But Nerhol aims to bring forward the complexities and difficulties of this concept. The duo creates time-lapse portraits consisting of many photographs taken over a three minute period, this captures each and every small movement of the subject. Subsequently Nerhol layers all images into one sculptural portrait. The artist duo digs and curves the faces, combining a layering of images with reductive carving. In Japanese language 'to dig' and 'to curve' have the same pronunciation: 'hol'. In addition, Ner means 'plan'. The duo always starts off with a plan, deciding for one 'portrait' to carve more vigorously, and for another work just to reveal small changes.
The result offers an honest 'index' of the portrait and the process of making. Also, the artists explore the tension between photography and sculpture; the first being a technical and distanced medium that often creates single images, whereas the latter typically comprises physicality, expression and multiple perspectives. Through this unique approach, Nerhol unveils the small alterations which are present in a photographed portrait - not side-by-side in a row, but all in one image.
The fascinating realization is that, while the portrayed faces appear as very distorted, they are in fact the accurate representations of real faces, captured in time. This poses the question if it is even possible to truly reflect the human face through conventional photography. Moreover, the work can be seen as a response to the volatility of today's fast paced reality, in which many things disappear as soon as they arise.
The exhibition comprises several portraits of Nerhol's very recent series Misunderstanding Focus, which consists of time-lapse portraits of individuals. This will be combined with images of objects - for example of a water tap, referring to tap water as a limited resource in capitalist society - and four new works that have never been shown before. The most recent work is about a radiation-contaminated fish, which Nerhol followed until its death. The alterations in the fish's life and appearance are a metaphor for the long-term consequences from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami.
The exhibition was made in collaboration with the Festival Images (Vevey, Switzerland)
This exhibition has been made possible by Van Bijleveltstichting and The Japan Foundation.