Hamiltons presented Mario Testino: East, 19 November 2019 - 7 February 2020, an exhibition of new photography by the renowned fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino. Featuring 18 prints, the collection comprises two subject matters; Japanese flowers on lustrous golden screens and vividly tattooed men, intricately entwined. Through the distinctive lens of Testino, these dazzling images capture two Japanese traditions at their most vibrant.
The flower still lifes are inspired by traditional ‘Ukiyo-e’, or “pictures of the floating world”, one of the most admired genres of Japanese art and typically created using woodblock prints and painting. Each of the seasonal flowers captured by Testino in this body of work signify distinct ideas, such as truth, splendour, humbleness and sincerity, culminating in a floral display rich in Japanese heritage. The backdrop of the golden screens has a reflective effect, showcasing the delicacy of the flowers. Initially used as room dividers, these screens developed into luxury ornaments used for ceremonial occasions in Japan.
In contrast to the delicacy of the flowers, Testino photographs boldly tattooed men. Each man was tattooed by the most famous Irezumi tattoo artist in Japan, Horiyoshi III. As a master of the traditional Irezumi technique, which translates as ‘inserting ink’, Horiyoshi III is the second tattooist to be granted this name, an honorific title that passes from master to apprentice. Today he is legendary for his artistry, particularly as he tattoos with no plan in advance, improvising as he goes, relying on his knowledge, skill and instinct. The special Nara ink requires a painful and time-consuming process, resulting in elaborate designs the tattooist controls, rather than the client. Tattoos are discriminated against in Japan and cannot be visible in public. At the beginning of the Meiji period, in the late 19thCentury, the government outlawed tattoos, and Irezumi became associated with criminality and the Yakusa (Japanese mafia). In portraying the artistry of the tattoos, bodies interlocked, Testino exposes this incredible tradition in all its glory.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers, Mario Testino is responsible for the creation of emblematic images, transmitting emotion and energy in an open and intimate way, to document people all over the world.
Testino's work has been exhibited in museums around the world, including the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin (Undressed, 2017) the Shanghai Art Museum (Private View, 2012) and the National Portrait Gallery in London (Portraits, 2002). Testino’s most recent body of work is an artistic exploration of cultural identity, part of a wider project to highlight diverse beauty. As he travels the world, Testino reveals what makes culture in each country special, challenging us to find a more sustainable balance between change and tradition.
More than 17 books of his photography have been published, including MaRIO DE JANEIRO Testino, Kate Moss by Mario Testino, Alta Moda and Fina Estampa. Alongside his 40-year practice as a photographer, Testino has realised a body of work as a creative director, guest editor, art collector, philanthropist and museum founder in Lima. MATE – Museo Mario Testino – was established in 2012 to contribute to his homeland of Peru through the cultivation and promotion of South American culture and heritage. In recognition of his charity work, Testino was awarded the Legion of Honour of France in 2017, the Order of the British Empire in 2013, and the Grand Cross Order of Merit in Peru in 2014. In October 2016, Testino opened the first Parques Teresita playpark in association with Natalia Vodianova and the Naked Heart Foundation in Cusco, Perú, and the second in January 2019 in Ayacucho, Peru.