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'Irritating' Photos
Makoto MURATA, Art Journalist
Notes of Oblivion >>

People become irritated when they cannot see something clearly. This irritation is akin to us becoming impatient from our inability to aptly verbalize the subject we have in our minds. This feeling most likely derives from the anxiety we feel when we are not able to distinguish what we are facing: "Is it a 'friend' or a 'foe'?" or "Is it a game or is it not?" Such reasoning explains why humankind invented the eyeglass, and then developed it into telescope and microscope: so that we could distinctly see minute details.
We are captivated by the Miniature paintings of Jan van Eyck and Jakuchu Ito because every strand of hair and every feather in their works are vividly depicted. But if we were to keep going in that direction, we would not be satisfied until we could determine every grain of sand on the beach or every vein of every leaf in the forest that is depicted in a work; thus we would enter into a world of insanity.
In any case, the above reason explains why paintings that sharply depict every nook and corner of a scene attract our attention. But it is also a fact that such images fascinate us to the extent that they make us forget that they are two-dimensional, painted works. This means that because the depicted images come out to the foreground, we lose sight of the materialistic side of the medium of painting. On the contrary, if the outlines in a painting were made ambiguous or if there are traces of rough brushstrokes, we would be held back from throwing ourselves into the image; thus, we would become conscious of the fact that it is a painting, and the materialistic element of the medium of painting would therefore be emphasized. This type of 'disillusioning' of the medium is precisely the distinguishing characteristic possessed by modern art.
A similar comment can also be applied to photography. A sharp-focused color photo entices us into its vivid image and makes us forget that it is a photo. But if a photo is blurry or out of focus, our vision is immediately bounced back at its surface; we become realistically aware that it is the medium of photography. This was the case in photos by such artists as Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama.
That brings me to the work of Ryo Hamada. Hamada originally used oil paint to depict night landscapes. But beginning ten years ago, she began utilizing photography as her expressional medium, which she had only used supplementally up until that time. This means that from the beginning of her artistic career, she has been attracted to indistinct scenes such as night views, as well as photos taken in the dark that would not come out clearly. From that point forward, Hamada began creating works that developed into her present form of expression.
In creating her works, Hamada enlarges out-of-focus photos and further blurs them by placing pieces of semi-transparent plastic sheeting over the photos, or else she covers them with milky-white acrylic boards. Though viewers can guess whether the image is a landscape or portrait, they are not able to identify the place where it was taken or who the person in the photo is. This means that each of her photos is out of focus to the extent that it is indistinguishable whether the subject in the image is a 'friend' or a 'foe.'
Furthermore, it should be noted that regardless of the fact that they are out of focus, her works do not allow viewers to become aware that they are indeed photos. Hamada achieves this by covering each photo with a plastic sheet or acrylic board so that the grains and the minute scratches on the surface are invisible; thus, the viewers' eyes are not held back at the workfs surface. From this point of view, the materialistic nature is scarce in Hamada's works; as a medium, her works are lucid. That is the reason why no matter how long they might stare at them, it is difficult for viewers to 'focus into' Hamada's images; thus, there have been quite a few viewers who could not resist touching her works. How 'irritating' Hamada's works are!
(Translated by Taeko Nanpei)

Copyright (C) sice 2002 Ryo Uga Hamada, All rights reserved.