Nobuyoshi Araki has a worldwide notoriety for photographing beautiful women in intricate and perilous bondage (Kinbaku) in the name of art. Unsurprisingly, some of his work has been branded pornographic. Known also as erstwhile photographer of Bjork, this is his first London show since a major retrospective at the Barbican in 2005 and reveals him as an exquisite fetishist of female flesh.
This series of large, black and white photographs, selected from a Kinbaku back catalogue of 88, are daubed with Japanese calligraphy and are stunning, weird and beautiful. The ingenuity of the shibari bonds require the skill of an artist for starters but Araki further toys with traditional ideas of schoolgirl, geisha, mother to be and punky fashionista whilst stringing up, tying down and bandaging them, throwing in sex toys, hacksaws, paintbrushes and enemas to further trouble your erotic imagination.
This exhibition is sure to shake up your gender politics. Can you stand and stare without implicating yourself in the sub/dom quagmire? Can you admire Araki's flawless models, with their perfect cover girl faces, lit and captured so beautifully, impassive or arousingly collusive, without imagining yourself so constrained and helpless or in the position of the all powerful artist? Are they wearing their bondage as if it were Versace; the enemas and dildos simply this season's high fashion accessory - the artist's milieu - or is this pornography, plain and simple - high class, exotic, professionally rendered but fundamentally hardcore?
You won't feel filthy having lingered in Hamiltons but your mind will be whirring. It's a fascinating small show and the light, modern gallery is cool and calm with friendly, unobtrusive staff on hand to answer questions about the work. If your questions tend towards the finer points of shibari, however, you might want to look elsewhere for tips.
Marvellous Tales of Black Ink is at Hamiltons Gallery, 13 Carlos Place, W1K 2EU until 19 October. Admission is free.
Image: Araki, Untitled, Bokuju Kitan / Marvellous Tales of Black Ink, courtesy of Hamiltons Gallery