Whilst still best known as an architect, in recent years John Pawson’s photographic work has been garnering growing international recognition. This trajectory of interest originated in the publication just over a decade ago of A Visual Inventory (Phaidon Press), followed five years later by Spectrum (Phaidon Press), which was transposed by curator Carrie Scott from the pages of a book into an immersive architectural installation in an iconic brutalist building — 180 Strand — in central London. In 2021 John Pawson – A Point of View was then mounted at the Casa Dei Tre Oci, during the Venice Art Biennale and in 2022 John Pawson, Looking for Light, comprising sixteen new print works, formed one of the inaugural exhibitions at the Bastian Gallery in Berlin.
This new exhibition at The Mass, Tokyo — the first solo exhibition of Pawson’s work in Japan — provides visitors with an intimate opportunity to experience Pawson’s unique perspective on the world — his point of view — as its focus shifts from tiny details of colour, texture and formal composition to evocations of light, atmosphere and emotion:
The exhibition programme is divided between the three gallery spaces of The Mass and an outdoor area in the neighbouring StandBy. Two galleries offer a visual encounter with sequences of chromatically ordered images drawn from Spectrum, while the third space debuts Pawson’s series Home, where the subject of the artist’s lens is his own domestic environments. Set in counterpoint to this photographic inventory is a contemplative installation, commissioned for The Mass and constructed in proximity to Harajuku’s Cat Street within the installation space, StandBy. Across more than four decades of practice, Pawson has been consistent in his view that his work is architecture not art, but with Lunula — titled Lunula for its crescent geometry — he consciously pushes closer to the very threshold of such distinctions, with the creation of a charged, inhabitable form in which space, surface, light and the burning of incense are experienced as a resonantly seamless totality.
The exhibition is a sort of homecoming for Pawson, who spent a number of years in his mid-twenties teaching English in Nagoya, before moving to Tokyo where he frequented the studio of renowned architect and designer Shiro Kuramata. His experiences in Japan and his encounter with Kuramata left a lasting impression on the young Pawson, leading to his multifaceted career that encompasses architecture, photography and design.
To coincide with the opening of the exhibition, The Mass will host an artist talk event between John Pawson and Japanese artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto. The talk will be moderated by the exhibition curator, Carrie Scott, and will provide an opportunity for the two figures to discuss each other’s life and work in a variety of fields. The event will take place on the evening of Friday April 14th and will be free and open to the public, with limited seats available by reservation. Further details on the talk, start time and how to make a reservation will be shared via The Mass’ website and social media.
John Pawson CBE, RDI, born in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1949 Following a period of employment in the family textile business, Pawson lived and worked in Japan for four years in his mid-twenties, before returning to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He established his architectural practice in 1981, designing spaces with clean lines, oriented in precise details devoid of excess ornamentation. This minimalist aesthetic has lent itself to the design of homes, stores, hotels, monasteries, ballet sets and art galleries. Notable projects include the Design Museum in London, Bastian Gallery in Berlin, the Abbey of Our Lady of Nový Dvůr in the Czech Republic, the Calvin Klein Collections Store in New York and the Jil Sander flagship store on Omotesando.
John Pawson, Spectrum, 2019, Courtesy of the artist
Photograph: Keishin Horikoshi / SS