Paul Alessandrini unveils his Japan in Paris

Like Asia speaks of a “Halyuu wave”, referring to the recent trend for Korean pop culture, can we speak of a “Japanese wave” in France? Probably. One thing is for certain, Paul Alessandrini looks at it from aside. He admits Japan is fashionable, but that’s not exactly what he meant to show through his pictures.

The curious ones who visit the exhibition can expect to see pictures. However, if they play Alessandrini’s game until the end, they will get meanings instead. Because the order of pictures was conceived like a game, a thematic journey inside the other side of the world. First, signs and wires: the graphic maze of Japanese streets. One look at those pictures gives you a sense of erring.

Discovering Japan a few years back for the first time, Alessandrini sees himself surrounded by a world of many different layers which he can’t comprehend. “There are so many signs in Japan… Look at those wires, cables, incomprehensible signs over the cement; all those things fascinate me because I don’t understand anything,” he says. And because the meaning is more important than anything else, he quotes Roland Barthes, with whom he shares the fascination of a scholar suddenly turned illiterate.

Once the visitor is properly lost, Alessandrini gives him back his marks with a series that he admits is “quite classical”: geishas. The painted neck of a woman wearing an elegant kimono sits next to a couple of geishas surrounded by a hundred of amateur paparazzi. “The Japanese are fascinated with their own traditional culture,” he explains.

Our shared journey then looms inside the strange atmosphere of Naoshima Island. The place is a gigantic outdoor museum, where modern art sculptures were inserted in the beautiful scenery. Observing Alessandrini as he looks at his own pictures gives an urge to travel, too: his amazement has not eroded through the years.

Seeing his vision of Japan, one tends to understand. A dream-like image of cherry trees covered in blooms, surrounding a man in a derby hat, evokes a colorful rendering of René Magritte’s The Son Of Man. “And this picture was taken on a street called the Path of Philosophers,” he points out with his eye twinkling with the association of ideas.

And like a reminiscence of the entire journey one makes when looking at Alessandrini’s pictures, the last image represents someone waiting, looking at the sea: travelling, or coming back. If you tell Paul Alessandrini that his exhibition is an invitation to jump on the next flight to Japan, he will most probably agree with you.

Les Instants Japonais, La Maison de la Chine

Metro Saint-Sulpice (l.4)

Entrance: free

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