Yuichi Takasaka finds new wonder in northern lights
At Art Beatus until October 18
Yuichi Takasaka’s photographs of the aurora borealis are so vividly detailed and richly hued that you can almost hear the magnetic swish of the pale green, pink, and blue lights as they shift and shimmer across the night sky. Shot in the Northwest Territories and processed to enhance colour, sharpness, and dimensionality, the 20 images on view at Art Beatus create a link between National Geographic–style spectacle and the Romantic landscape tradition. Wonder and delight attend these works.
Takasaka was born in Japan and immigrated to Canada as a teenager. He worked as a video cameraman in the late 1980s and only began concentrating on still photography in the 1990s, after moving to Yellowknife (where he supported himself as a tour promoter). There, he was consumed by the subject of the northern lights and devoted himself to learning how to depict them photographically. His subsequent success as a nature and astronomy photographer is marked by his many awards, his wide publication in print and online, and his exhibitions worldwide. After seven years in Yellowknife, Takasaka settled in Lumby, British Columbia, but he continues to make frequent photographic expeditions to the North and across Canada.
Most of the photos in the show, which date from between 2009 and 2013, are horizontal or panorama-format, usually composed of a long, low, slightly curving horizon line of dark trees and above, an immensity of night sky hung with radiant curtains of colour. In a couple of images, such as Yukon Startrails, the use of time-lapse photography conveys a sense of movement, not only of the northern lights but also of the multitude of stars rotating in the heavens.
In Full Moon Aurora, the flowing curves and vertical striations of pale-turquoise lights play against a violet sky, above a landscape of rocks, forest, and falling water. The full moon of the title is visible only through its silvery sheen reflected off the cascading blur of the river. The moon makes a more direct appearance in A Night at Boat Launch, which records turquoise-green clouds of light above the still, dark waters of Great Slave Lake. The small lunar orb throws a silver-white band across the lake, while a couple of modest maritime structures at the lower left and a crowd of town lights and sailboats at the lower right register the human occupation of this northern landscape. The image creates a curious juxtaposition between the grandeur of the natural environment and the niggling ordinariness of the built one.
Given our inclination toward metaphor—our fondness for reading people and animals into cloud formations, say—it is inevitable that the aurora borealis at times evokes something other than itself. Goddess of Dawn, one of the few vertical-format images here, isolates pale-green northern lights in a way that suggests a gowned figure with the headdress of a great bird, its wings outspread. Like the other works on view, this goddess illuminates Takasaka’s great technical facility and Romantic-sublime aesthetic.