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Foxfires (Kitsune-Bi)

Luke Hardy
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Entry Fee: Free

Foxes are poets of beguilement, not least in Japanese folklore, which speaks of their ability to take human form. Foxes are also masters of trespass, entering our dreams through their own. They have a certain sinister allure.

In some stories, foxes are faithful guardians, hence their presence as sentinels in Shinto shrines; but in others, they are thieves: they can even steal your soul. A fox spirit can possess your lover, and you would be none the wiser. White foxes are usually good luck; red foxes often less so. You just never know. 

In nature, foxes are quite solitary, but in myth they meet at night, their gatherings marked by clusters of little yellow-red lights called foxfires. These are sometimes visible far off in the dark, appearing in pairs and not so high off the ground, go figure. They are said to have the luminosity of distant paper lanterns. 

These images are glimpses of  arcane ceremony, pieces of dreams. Make your own story.

Luke Hardy is a photographic artist who has spent a significant period of his adult life living in various Asian countries. Out of this experience he has built a body of essentially portrait-based work reflecting on Buddhist and Hindu ritual, often involving water and purification. More recent work contemplates altered states and the thin line between the spiritual and the sensual. His subjects tend to be meditative, half-awake, sometimes somnambulistic.

Hardy has had a lifelong fascination with Things Japanese, starting from when he was a child absorbing Japanese popular culture on television and in the cinema. This grew into a more serious consideration of Japanese art and literature, although to this day classic Japanese cinema, particularly the work of Ozu, Masaki Kobayashi and Kurosawa, is a favourite point of contact.

Hardy cannot account for the obsession but, as a photographer, he suspects his fascination with Japan has to do with the way Japanese culture “frames” all that it sees: even a distant feature in the landscape can be “borrowed” to complement the effect of a personal garden.

In Hardy’s work, the frame is quite often a threshold, his subjects sometimes passing in or out of view. This, he says, suggests a world beyond what is visible. 

Hardy has travelled countless times throughout Japan in all of its seasons over the last thirty years, initially engaging his camera as a means of documentation, but lately, as his practice has become more conceptual, using it to capture authentic elements that he incorporates into meticulous imagined compositions, as in his series yuki onna , dragonfly and foxfires

Hardy first exhibited work in Tokyo in 1991 in galleries operated by the UN in Aoyama, Tokyo, alongside award-winning Japanese photographer Masanori Kobayashi. His works are held in private collections in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. He has been nominated for the Blake Prize [2008] and the Head On Portrait Prize [2006, 2010]. Other works of his have also been shortlisted for Head On prizes. His photographs appear in a number of publications, including Australian Art ReviewPhoto Review Australia, the Australian  Photography and Gallery Compendium and Burma: Art and Archaeology [The British Museum, 2002].

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Entry Fee: Free
© Rob Johnston

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Image detail: Gary Ramage