Jiro Kamata: Momentopia

Exhibition  /  31 Oct 2009  -  22 Nov 2009
Published: 27.10.2009
Galleri Hnoss
Maria Ylander
Jiro Kamata. Brooch: Momentopia, 2008. Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens. Jiro Kamata
Brooch: Momentopia, 2008
Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Camera lenses are principal elements in Kamata's work. He strips them down to their smallest components, takes away all that is redundant and rebuild them to accurately composed necklaces and brooches. The jewellery plays with the optical effects of the camera lenses, the way they absorb and depict the surroundings. The work is highly technological but yet philosophical in a sense that they evoke thoughts, about images that exists behind the eye of the camera, and the question of who is watching whom.

Artist list

Jiro Kamata
Three worlds

You always reap what you sow.
Old proverb

The best cameras, so they say, are made in Japan and Germany. As are their lenses. Jiro Kamata however is pleased that they sometimes break irreparably. He dissects them like carcasses, guts them, frees them of all metal and plastic; leaving only highly precise lenses made of the best glass.
 They lay there, naked, the eyes of the camera. They have seen all the counties of this world. From the light of our sun, from thousands of stars, from millions of light bulbs, neon lamps, flash lamps and torches and having penetrated a candle or two, they have seen the beautiful and the ugly, birth, love and death. They have captured laughter, have encountered hate, war. They have been to the sea, flown to the moon, caught fleeting signs of UFOs. They have captured the banal billions of times, and the extraordinary rarely. They have turned the naked into art and, when they looked into every crease and fold, into pornography. Robbed of their black coat, they are now exposed themselves. In their colorless transparency, they appear liberated from their pictures, and yet, without constantly supplying new pictures, you cannot see through them. That is what the observer, the photographer sees.
Here, Kamata carries out his precisely placed interventions. He paints the lenses black on one side, and I will comment on the white variant later. And he places the glass lenses in flat containers made of blackened silver. A fine, circular ribbon surrounds and protects the fragile edge, the flat base covers the paint and defines the back, and thus the front. Then, several elements with differing diameters are arranged into a necklace and bound with chain links. Others are bridged with bars and form brooches, which are reminiscent of medals or abstract flowers.
Now they are, the lenses, once again how we know them in front of the camera, black, deep and unfathomable. In this plain, strict form, the eye of the camera becomes an object of silent dialog, of probing observation. A journey into the darkness begins. We are accompanied by thoughts from Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s “In praise of shadows,” a short book on Japanese aesthetics from 1933: “In the past however, when it was still usual to build high ceilings, long corridors and huge rooms measuring dozens of tatami mats in residences, in buildings in the pleasure district and similar places, the interior spaces were probably constantly pervaded by a similar foggy darkness, and the noble women sat there, immersed in this slurry of gloom.“1 “The flickering candlelight was unable to penetrate this denseness, and was instead thrown back as though it had crashed into a black wall. Have you, my readers, ever seen the color of a “darkness illuminated with rays of light” such as this? It was somehow made up of a different substance than the darkness you get on a path in the night; the impression swelled up, it was crawling with tiny, ember-like bodies, and every single little part shimmered in all the colors of the rainbow. Out of fear that they could get into my eyes, I blinked involuntarily.”2
Now what do we see when we look into Kamata’s jewelry eyes. First, the hard reflexes of the light sources impose themselves upon you, in my case there are four bare neon tubes on the ceiling of Jiro’s studio, an optical signal from the world behind, above, outside me. Then, in front, the reflection of myself. Because of the way the light falls, I see myself only in silhouette. I try to make out details and discover colors. The surfaces of the lenses shimmer in shades of turquoise, blue and green. Orange, yellow, sand-colored nuances also play along. A dark Bordeaux-red glows on a small lens. The interplay of colors on the coating of the lenses is subtle and yet brilliant, metallic, crisp. Colors like a film of oil on dark water. And it draws us into this water. We penetrate the surface and sink down into a real, a magical, a metaphysical place.
However we look into dark rooms, that is the way they look back. We are free to look into the black glistening lenses in Kamata’s jewelry, whatever we project into them. What riches has this lens already seen? All the images of this world appear, start moving, become a film, merge, mutate into dreams of the night, fear of the dark broom cupboard, black holes suck us in, tunnels engulf us. Eyes stare at us. Eyes! Anything is possible. Here’s looking at you kid. Here isn’t looking at you kid. Your eyes are the gateway to your soul. I do not want to see myself in you. However we look into eyes, that is the way they look back at us.
And now back to the lenses which were painted white. Almost everything is very different and yet the same. The colors retreat, they break the harshness of the absolute white. We can only make them out fleetingly. My likeness is also ephemeral. We can hardly grasp the depth of the glass body, like gentle swaths of mist over clear water. I think of the white of the eye, which we rarely talk about. It is lovely! Imagine yourself without its white. We would be aliens, strange to ourselves.
Now, if the black in Kamata’s new works however corresponds to the Japanese sumi ink used in calligraphy, at the place where it is thickest, then, when I look at the slightly broken white, I think of the finest Japanese washi paper from the gampi tree. The empire of light and of shadow, as produced by the relationship of water and ink, would be everything we see in these lenses, or just simply, life.

An early picture by the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, the small lithograph “Drie werelden” (Three worlds) of 1955, shows a pond in the fall. Leaves are swimming on the surface. Three trees, which are beyond the edge of the picture, are reflected in the still water and protrude into the picture like black roots. In the foreground, a large carp is swimming through the dark peaty water. It looks at us with wide eyes.

Otto Künzli

1 Quoted from: Tanizaki; Jun’ichiro. Lob des Schattens, Entwurf einer japanische Ästhetik, (Zurich, 1987), p. 61, (original Japanese edition: “In’ei-raisan”, (Tokyo, 1933))
2 Ibid., pp. 60, 61 

Jiro Kamata. Brooch: Momentopia, 2008. Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens. 8.5 x 8.5 x 1cm. Jiro Kamata
Brooch: Momentopia, 2008
Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens
8.5 x 8.5 x 1cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Jiro Kamata. Brooch: Momentopia, 2008. Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens. 10.5 x 6.5 x 1cm. Jiro Kamata
Brooch: Momentopia, 2008
Blackened silver, white gold 750, lacquer, camera lens
10.5 x 6.5 x 1cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Jiro Kamata. Neckpiece: Momentopia 23, 2009. Silver, paint, camera lens. Jiro Kamata
Neckpiece: Momentopia 23, 2009
Silver, paint, camera lens
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Jiro Kamata. Brooch: Momentopia 2, 2009. Silver, white gold, lacquer, camera lens. 9 x 7 x 1 cm. Jiro Kamata
Brooch: Momentopia 2, 2009
Silver, white gold, lacquer, camera lens
9 x 7 x 1 cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.