17 October - 20 November 2021
The exhibition "Amplitude" is the result of the artist’s work during the last two years. Staying at his studio in the mountains of Mie prefecture, Kenji Arimoto examines his own experience of "isolation", often exaggerating reality and treating it somewhat ironically. Here the perception and expression of physical feelings is very strong and is influenced by the intimacy of representations. Severity and gravitation, loneliness and dependency on news and information, light, color, smell - everything encourages the reinterpretation of reality, with feelings swinging from one extreme to another like waves, while their amplitude reflects the disjuncture between the starting points in perception of materiality and time. This is a very personal experience in the context of isolation. Reflecting on the events of the past or attempting to model the future, the mind of the artist moves within a breadth of amplitude which has no footing in the present. Observations over the surrounding world provide topics for artistic work, but they cannot be perceived literally - their metaphorical meaning is brought to the fore and becomes more important.
"I remember, in 2016 I drew landscapes of Nabari in Mia prefecture (some fields not far from Asahi city). The place of my presence and my disappearance, (not sure if it changed since) - it's just an image for me. It's an abstract, but I only remember the good. The memories turn into history. Oil paint and brushes create new images."
Kenji Arimoto Studio Views
The artist uses objects as memory triggers. Every object contains its own hidden history leaving space for interpretations. Soft colors, svelte forms, blurred silhouettes interchange with sharp cut lines or angles and saturated paints. Taken together the works create tension born of the contrast between the trivial and the context it’s placed in. Thus, connotations are distorted and mystify as in a thriller. For example, representations of kewpie dolls and their heads in vacuum, crosses the boundaries of a children’s game to cause the feeling of anxiety and evil premonition. The detailed depiction of tiny faces outside their role in a child’s game brings forth a strange feeling of a desolated home, terminated childhood and nostalgia. The same feelings are expressed through the works "Move Heart to Birds" and "Move Heart to Birds II", where one sees only the silhouettes of children standing side by side as if in a photograph which has lost its precision and has become fuzzy. Such images convey the sorrow of losing things.
According to the artist, this poem by Du Fu has been an inspiration for such feelings.
The nation shattered, mountains and river remain;
city in spring, grass and trees burgeoning.
Feeling the times, blossoms draw tears;
hating separation, birds alarm the heart.
Beacon fires three months in succession,
a letter from home worth ten thousand in gold.
White hairs, fewer for the scratching,
soon too few to hold a hairpin up.
Burton Watson: The Selected Poems of Du Fu
Arimoto bestows his own meaning on surroundings which may better be perceived intuitively and subconsciously rather than literally. Under the artist’s will the same elements may express tragedy and drama or through the use of irony acquire completely different interpretation. The artist expresses his attitude by masterfully changing the angle of view and through using various media creates mini stories with a wide spectrum of perceptions, often ending with absurd arrangement of objects which creates ironical meaning, as in the works Entrance Marker or Each Eye.
Arimoto chooses various media means - from photography and painting to clay and wood - depending on their ability to express a certain image and implication. Landscapes may be represented figuratively or nearly abstractly and are deemed to convey the light and "substance" of the landscape, its image in the artists’s mind.
Space and air are very important in the "portraits" of objects. Objects and subjects on the canvas look like outlines of fading entities. Empty light spots urge us to think about incompleteness, objects seem to be taken unaware at the moment of their emergence into sight. By making something like frames, the artist attempts to connect objects to the ground and at the same time asserts theirs transience. This gives a presentation the nature of "belonging"- through depicting something the artist becomes the owner of the object as well as the time of its creation. We always feel the subjectivity of his view.
Reminiscences, associations with the past, but also new perceptions of reality comprise the basis of Arimoto’s works. Diluted and soft pallet, abstract and figurative forms create a metaphorical world of ambivalent reality. Living in his isolated studio conceived by the artist as "an island of security," he nevertheless always expects the news to come. This excites the artist, keeps him in tension and gives birth to the feeling of fluctuations, where tranquility is interspersed with anxiety. Such mood is well presented in his works at this exhibition.
"When I climb the mountain where my workshop is situated, I am overwhelmed by the energy and sensory input I receive there. I try to comprehend its enormity but only have feelings of danger. Every time I step further up and look for a safe spot to place my foot, I am distracted by this sensory overload, but it’s a moment when I can look around. In climbing this mountain I was searching for inspirations in light and substance. Such a struggle with nature captures the imagination and leaves strong impressions, thus creating a history. I don’t pay much attention to the substance of the mountain which consists mainly of straight lines. It's just my momentary observation. It's like seeing trees on a YouTube advert; they just seem to be green."
In the series of works "Green Friction" various easy on the eye green hues cover the canvas layer after layer. Strong and energetic strokes going in various directions create the feeling of movement. The artist attempts to focus attention on objects of nature - the grass he steps on, the leaves of branches he touches while walking. All these things he sees with his peripheral vision, noticing their movements rather than shape and volume. As if viewed from a moving train one can see multicolored strips, the effect we feel in "Green Friction" consists of fluctuations and their flair.
"Second hand solar panels can be bought cheap on the internet. They are useful as a source of clean energy, but quite possibly they have already had their uses. By using the term "the sun is watching you" I wanted to convey the message that the Sun God is watching constantly. I always feel the presence and impact of Japanese animism on myself."
"I thought about the meaning of the word "to see" and my solar panels were inscribed with Braille. Blind people will not be able to read it due to their inability to touch this enormously sized Braille, and when sighted people see it, they will not be able to read it either because they do not read Braille. In this world of numbers and machines in which our feelings towards other people become weak, what are we to think when we are confronted by the sun?"
The series of works "S.K" is based on the photographs which were taken and printed by the artist in Shimagahara, Iga City, where his atelier was located in the late 1980s and early 90s. The photographs were left in an outdoor locker and became old. Arimoto found them after many years. In fact, being buried in the natural environment, they were exposed to moisture, air and sunlight, which led to corrosion and changes without chemical or technical means. Completed in this way in the "natural laboratory" works absorbed, according to the artist, the power of animism of the surrounding local area.
In 2020 these landscapes, in which traces of nature and time are visible, acquired an additional symbolic meaning, giving reality one more version of reading.