Hours 12:00 – 19:00
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
The Mass is pleased to present Seb Janiak’s first solo exhibition in Japan.
In a photographic career spanning over 30 years, Seb Janiak has explored a remarkably diverse range of areas. From his matte paintings with their revolutionary new techniques and unique perspectives, Janiak has successfully preserved a sense of cohesion while covering the full range of possibilities offered by photography. Janiak started out as a young freelance graphic designer without specific aspirations to be an artist, who wanted above all to give free rein to his curiosity and to experiment with a piece of equipment which he discovered by chance and which opened up the possibility of creating stunning images.
In 1987, images could be created and digitally enhanced using Quantel Paintbox. Janiak was one of the very first people to extend its use beyond the TV and film applications for which it was originally designed in order to produce photographic images for exhibition. In these photographs, scenes of unbridled fantasy were reconstructed with a hitherto unprecedented degree of realism. This marked the dawn of a new photographic esthetic. A variety of different shots taken all over the world could be assembled digitally into large- format images conjuring up a sci-fi world suffused with the staggering transparency of photography. This new style of image would become the staple fare of the next two decades, but Janiak’s achievement lay in being the first to create them.
Seb Janiak is a pioneer, spurred on by a restless desire to observe the world, challenge it and apply his artistic skills to reshaping it. He has an unquenchable thirst for everything that supplements our understanding of reality, opens up new perspectives and creates meaning. Whether he is dealing with institutionalized phenomena (religion, science, and astrophysics in particular) or niche areas (esotericism, ufology) his imagination draws on humanity in all its boundless diversity, transcending time and place. An overview of his work is instructive in this respect.
The success of his early digital photos was followed by a meteoric rise in the world of advertising in 1995. He made a seamless transition from still images to video and the most influential musicians quickly approached him to direct their music videos, including Daft Punk, Janet Jackson, and Robbie Williams.
In 2005, after ten years of frenetic activity, major health problems forced Janiak to make radical lifestyle changes. At the height of his artistic powers, he resumed his experiments with photography, free from the constraints of commissioned work. Drawing inspiration for his work from a variety of sources over the years such as traditional oriental texts including the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the history of Western art, Janiak created strikingly powerful ensembles in which human figures were replaced by nature and ideas.
Since 2009, Janiak has set new parameters on this research by restricting himself to the techniques of analog photography, namely double exposure, superimposition and photomontage.
—Paul Frèches, former gallerist and curator, currently cultural attaché at the Consulate general of France in Shanghai.
The Kingdom (2009 – 2017)
The Kingdom is inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Bardo Thödol, where the soul deprived of its mortal envelope has to face its repressed desires, its angers, traces of its passing through the matter on earth. During the 49 days of the Bardo, the conscience of the soul has to understand that all these sometimes diabolical visions are not but fantasies, an illusion created by fear and that only then the true light gets the upper hand and will guide the soul towards the one and only light of the creative God.
This project, which Seb Janiak began in 2009, constituted a key stage in this protracted process. These large photographs of turbulent skies, vehicles for the primal energy revealed by the transformation of clouds. The breath-taking quality of these works was followed by equally striking series in which the artist depicted the normally invisible forces which shape and alter reality. This constituted both a personal quest and a game for this artist driven by the desire to look beyond surface appearances. Ever alert and tirelessly challenging the world, Janiak outlined responses and suggestions through the medium of images. This fictitious world which under our eyes gets organized as it pleases, with the remains of the real world, reveals the most specific essence of a soul.
For Janiak, the light stops being the clearness which highlights what is: she is an emanation, a divine irradiation, a silent power that talks to souls. It is necessary to break the visible to reach the invisible. All these images of the physical world are not more than the announcement of another one: the spiritual world. Their richness, their magnificences, of which the artist does not disdain to get the brightness, do not appear more than the avant- garde of a splendor of a different order, obsessing presence of which they inform us. This language of the spiritual depths wide opens for us the heavy doors of an unknown we hold in ourselves.
In creating his works, Janiak has opened a window on his soul.
Technical Note: There are no changes made to the colors, no retouching or special effects applied to the image in post-production. As of 2009, Janiak has set new parameters on this research by restricting himself to the techniques of analog photography used since 1850, namely double exposure, superimposition and photomontage inspired by pioneers of photography such as Henry Peach Robinson, Édouard Baldus and Gustave Le Gray.
© Seb Janiak, The Kingdom, Bardo Thödol, 2010