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In his solo-exhibition 'In Between the Light and Darkness', Hong Kong artist YAN Kallen pays tribute to the passion and processes of the craftsmen and artisans in Kyoto. 


YAN has always been interested in the relationship between human and nature. After winning the KG+ Award from Kyotographie International Photography Festival in 2016 with his project on handcrafted brooms, he was given the opportunity to realise a project on the artisanal scene of Kyoto, a city known for its traditions in crafts and culture.


YAN about his experiences while living amongst the Kyoto artisans for six months and visiting them as often as he could:


“It was fascinating to watch the artisans at work, making things in the traditional methods and using tools that are sometimes passed down for generations. In the process of observing them, I slowly recognise that it is not simply a matter of livelihood, or continuation of traditions. Their artisanal culture represented a way of life, an attitude for living in this world, driven by the passion for the crafts, and to be making and to live with these artifacts.

From the sacred Hinoki timber for Shinto Shrines, to flowers used that naturally dyed fabrics, or the river running through the washi paper village, to the earth that is burned into tea bowls, in all the elements lie the respect and balance between human and nature, something which we have seemly lose in our modern life. There is something special about the way of the tools, the natural environment, the spiritual aspects, the processes and techniques, the family pride and legacies, and the value of the artisan community to the fabrics of the city of Kyoto.”


The title ‘Between the Light and Darkness’, describes the span of a lifetime, but also the reality of everyday, of repetition, of days and nights, and legacies, a moment in time, a photograph, a print.


YAN prints his images on thick handmade Washi paper with deckled edges, giving them a sense of timelessness as well as furthering the feeling of respect towards the physicality of the artisanal crafts.