“Just when it seems that everything has been photographed, in every possible way, along comes a photographer whose work is so original that the medium is renewed. Such a photographer is Rinko Kawauchi, who makes simple, lyrical pictures, so fresh and unusual that they are difficult to describe or classify. Her images document everyday things, yet could not be described as documentary. They are generally light in tone, yet somehow dark in mood. They are almost hallucinatory, yet seem to capture something fundamental about the psychological mood of modern life.”
Garry Badger, in: Martin Parr, Gerry Badger: The Photobook: A History, volume II


Born in 1972, Rinko Kawauchi is regarded as one of the most important female contemporary Japanese artists. Having lived for some time in New York, she has since returned to Tokyo. When studying at the Seian Junior College of Art and Design, she discovered photography as a means of expression. To date, she has published 16 photo books, including “Illuminance” (2011), which focused on transforming ephemeral elements of everyday life into something breathtakingly new.

Her works have been shown in individual exhibitions all over the world, including in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Gallery at Hermès, New York, in the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and in the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art in Paris.

Photographs by the artist are included in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Since 2006, the artist has been represented in Europe by GALERIE | PRISKA PASQUER.


Rinko Kawauchi’s work focuses on ordinary things and everyday situations. Her photographs attain their specific quality through her use of cropping and choice of perspective as well as the subtle use of natural light in combination with often virtually transparent colours. Rinko Kawauchi works in series, which, in the form of open narratives, combine poetry and emotion with representations of mortality and occasional melancholy.

Kawauchi’s new series, “Ametsuchi” – which translates as “heaven” and “earth” – explores how mankind relates to time. Vast landscape pictures in colours depict the traditional, controlled burning of farmland, demonstrating the destructive yet rejuvenating power of fire. The series of fire pictures are littered with abstract and calm images of stellar constellations and religious rituals.

In the earthy colours of her landscapes, the artist creates an “elementary simplicity […] like fields of colour in a Rothko painting” (Florence Waters).

Interwoven with the images of recurring agricultural and religious rituals and starry skies, Rinko Kawauchi conjures up a connection between the past and the present, the spiritual world and reality, between Heaven and Earth.


Sheets (Kominek, Berlin), 2013
Ametsuchi (Aperture, NY / Seigensha, Kyoto), 2013
Light and Shadow (Rinko Kawauchi Office)
, 2012
Illuminance, Amtsuchi, Seeing Shadow (Seigensha, Kyoto)

, 2012
Illuminance (Aperture, NY / FOIL, Tokyo), 2011
Murmuration (Photoworks, Brighton), 2010
Semear (FOIL, Tokyo), 2007
Majun  (FOIL, Tokyo), 2007
Rinko Diary Ⅱ (FOIL, Tokyo), 2006
Rinko Diary (FOIL, Tokyo), 2006
Cui Cui (FOIL + Foundation Cartier pour l’art Contemporaine), 2005
the eyes, the ears, (FOIL, Tokyo), 2005
Aila (FOIL, Tokyo), 2004
blue (Petit Grand Publishing, Tokyo), 2003
Utatane (Little More, Tokyo), 2001
Hanabi (Little More, Tokyo), 2001
Hanako (Little More, Tokyo), 2001